Minimum wage increase doesn’t please everyone

Cochrane Times - As of April 1, Alberta's minimum wage will increase from $8 to $8.40 per hour. According to Premier Ed Stelmach, the wage increase will ensure that it keeps pace with other salary increases in Alberta.

"Alberta's experiencing a time of great prosperity," Stelmach said. "Wages have increased about five per cent and we're ensuring minimum wage earners are sharing in this growth."

Last June, the provincial government announced that increases to the minimum wage would be based on the average weekly wage index and would come into effect April 1, 2008. The index is based on Statistics Canada's annual survey of employment, payroll and hours.

"With Alberta's vibrant economy and low unemployment, most employers are already paying more than minimum wage," Minister of Employment and Immigration Hector Goudreau said.

However, not everyone in Alberta is impressed with the increase. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) contends that the increase is too small, because the base rate is too low.

"Alberta's current minimum wage is simply too low," AFL president Gil McGowan said. "We estimate that a living wage right now in the province would have to be at least $10 per hour, so the government-mandated increase to $8.40 per hour as of April 1 this year is actually very disappointing."

McGowan added that Alberta workers need a minimum wage that actually reflects the high cost of living in the province.

"A minimum wage, after all, should prevent full-time workers from living below the poverty line," he said.

About 70,000 people, or 3.5 per cent, of working Albertans make minimum wage.

The majority are 15- to 19-year-olds working in the food service and hospitality industries.

Despite the fact that with the increase, Alberta's minimum wage remains the highest in Canada after taxes, McGowan proposes to first raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour and then index it.

"Let's start with a realistic and fair minimum wage - and then take it from there," he said.

Even before taxes, Alberta will have the third-highest minimum wage among the provinces, behind only Ontario ($8.75) and Manitoba ($8.50).
Employers and employees with questions about minimum wage can contact the Employment Standards contact centre at 780-427-3731 (toll-free in Alberta by first dialing 310-0000) or visit: for more information.

Cochrane Times, Wed Mar 26 2008
Byline: Stacie Snow

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