Simpson, Cobb support minimum wage increase

One of Christy Clark’s first decisions as B.C. premier to increase the province’s minimum wage is being viewed locally as a positive move.

One of Christy Clark’s first decisions as B.C. premier to increase the province’s minimum wage is being viewed locally as a positive move.

Last week, Clark announced the wage would increase incrementally starting May 1 with an increase from $8 an hour to $8.75; two more increases would follow by the end of next year bringing the way to $10.25 by May 2012.

Clark further singled out restaurant and bar servers who serve alcohol, noting, due to the tips they earn, they would be in receipt of a lower wage that would increase to $9 by May 2012.

Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson is hopeful about the change.

“I think it’s good,” Simpson says. “I think the raising of the minimum wage in B.C. was long overdue. I was pleasantly surprised at how aggressive she was about it.”

Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president Walt Cobb was also pleased.

“I think what they did was basically what we (B.C. chamber) were asking.”

Cobb says the incremental wage increases will allow business to better plan for the future. He notes, however, that one local business, as far as he knew, was in the midst of analyzing its current wage grid to account for the increased amounts.

Simpson voiced some concern for a lack of clarity around who would receive the lower wage; he also suggests  a need for more information and a more “holistic” approach to consultation and implementation.

“It would be easier for everybody if this occurred in a more transparent fashion, if everybody understood how those decisions were arrived at and a rationale was provided clearly.”

Simpson does not buy the argument that an increase will kill jobs. He says other jurisdictions have increased minimum wage and haven’t experienced a corresponding loss of employment.

“I don’t see that. I think that’s a knee-jerk reaction, and in my discussion with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce president I still maintain that increasing the minimum wage increases the disposable income of the people who are most likely to spend that money in their own community.”

He also doesn’t think it was prudent for the new premier to do away with the training wage.

“There was a rationale for the training wage to try and get businesses to hire young workers and spend time with them,” he says, adding now it’s possible employers will seek out only experienced employees if they have to pay the same wage.

Although supportive of the move, Simpson says it’s one piece of the low-income puzzle and now social assistance rates — that have not seen an increase in some time — also need to be addressed. He argues that like the minimum wage, if the government increases assistance rates that will also generate spending in communities.

“We need a comprehensive approach and minimum wage increase has to be part and parcel with an increase in assistance and disability rates and addressing the issue of low-income recipients being able to earn some income and not be penalized or go to school and not being penalized. If this was a comprehensive piece to start addressing people at the low end of the income spectrum then we would see those announcements.”

Cobb further likes the idea of a wage review every few years and hopes that will minimize the need for larger increases over a short period of time.