Minimum wage freeze unfair: AFL

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While the provincial government is lauding its decision to freeze minimum wage, one labour group claims the government is playing politics with the wages of low income earners.

The province announced today its decision to keep minimum wage at $8.80 an hour throughout the year.

"They're essentially taking money out of the pockets of the most vulnerable workers in the province," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, who called the freeze "mean-spirited" and "short sighted."

He added minimum wage is barely a poverty wage in most of the province, but particularly in places like Fort McMurray where the cost of living is through the roof.

"If they think this move will save or create jobs, they're dreaming in technicolour," McGowan said. "During a recession, it's not minimum wage jobs that are being lost - it's high-paying jobs in the energy sector or the public sector that have been lost. This move won't accomplish the government's stated objective of creating jobs. It will just make it that more difficult for people on the low end of the income ladder to make ends meet."

Not so, argued Barrie Harrison, Employment and Immigration spokesman. When the minimum wage is raised and businesses only have a certain budget to work with, "they may have to layoff some of their staff in order to adhere to the law," he said.

"There are studies that have shown when you raise minimum wage, especially during tough economic conditions, it can cost jobs. We want to make sure as many Albertans as possible, including those on entry level wages, continue to keep working, and at the same time, provide small businesses with this opportunity to remain viable and competitive ... until the economic conditions strengthen."

In announcing the wage freeze, Thomas Lukaszuk, minister of Employment and Immigration, announced he will request an all-party committee review of the current policies.

Fort McMurray Today, Sat Feb 6 2010
Byline: Carol Christian

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