Alberta leading race to the bottom

Province’s minimum wage again the lowest in Canada

Edmonton - Alberta has reclaimed the dubious distinction of having the worst minimum wage in the country.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, the minimum wage in Saskatchewan was increased from $9.50 to $10. This leaves Alberta as the province with the lowest-paid workers in the country. It was a title the province had relinquished for only three short months after Alberta increased its minimum wage in September from $9.40 to $9.75.

“It shows how out-of-line this province is with the rest of the country,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “During the three months that Alberta didn’t have the lowest, we had the second-lowest minimum wage.”

Workers in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario can all expect a minimum of $10.25 per hour. Throughout the Maritime Provinces, workers will see $10.00 per hour on their paycheques. In Nunavut, the minimum wage is $11.00. About 26,000 Alberta workers earn the minimum wage of $9.75.

“We have the strongest economy, and the greatest demand for workers in Canada. As a province we can afford to pay workers fairly, but we aren’t.” McGowan said. “Why is it that the province that has the greatest wealth is the stingiest with some of its most disadvantaged citizens?”

Since 2011, Alberta’s minimum wage has tied to an average of changes to Alberta’s annual average weekly earnings and changes to the Consumer Price Index in Alberta. Changes to minimum wage occur September 1 of each year and are announced with three months’ notice.

“Indexing the minimum wage to inflation makes sense,” McGowan said. “But it does no good to make cost-of-living adjustments if you’re starting from a wage that is simply too low. A terrible wage that keeps up with inflation will remain a terrible wage.”

Some workers in Alberta – those who serve alcohol and may have their income supplemented by tips – are subject to an even lower minimum wage of $9.05 an hour. Some restaurants have taken advantage of this system to pay their serving staff the reduced rate even if they almost never serve alcohol, and absolutely never get tips.

“This separate minimum wage, which was introduced last year, is a loophole that some employers are exploiting,” McGowan said. “There are workers in Alberta paid almost a full dollar less per hour than any other workers in Canada. The Premier needs to address this problem.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email orokne@afl.org.


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