Edmonton – The Redford government is raising the minimum wage next week, but Alberta’s lowest-income earners will still be the worst-paid in Canada.
As of September 1, the provincial general minimum wage will increase from $9.75 to $9.95. The minimum wage for liquor servers will remain the same at $9.05. Alberta’s minimum wage increases automatically each year under a formula that links the minimum wage to the cost of living.
“A terrible wage that keeps up with inflation will remain a terrible wage,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “How can it be that the richest province is the stingiest? Alberta has a booming economy, a high cost of living, but even with this increase, we have the lowest minimum wage in the country?”
If a minimum wage worker puts in 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, they’ll earn $18,109 a year before taxes. That’s significantly less than the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO), the official poverty line that Statistics Canada defines as $23,298. A rate of $14.05 without benefits, or $12.08 with benefits, would be required for someone working full-time at minimum wage to get beyond that poverty line.
“If someone is working full-time, they should not be below the poverty line,” McGowan said. “In Alberta, we have a sub-poverty wage. It’s a wage that too often will mean choosing between rent and food.”
Workers in B.C., Manitoba and Ontario can all expect a minimum of $10.25 an hour. Nova Scotia is a little bit better at $10.30 an hour. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and N.W.T. all pay $10.00 an hour for minimum wage. In Quebec, it’s $10.15. And in Nunavut, it’s $11.00 an hour.
“The Government’s plan to make annual inflation-based increases to the minimum wage has a lot of merit. The problem is that they started doing so only after many years in which they’d allowed inflation to greatly outpace the minimum wage,” McGowan said. “So when they started with the annual increases, the minimum wage was way, way, way too low for Alberta’s economy.”
In today’s dollars, Alberta’s minimum wages were significantly higher in the late 1970s than they are now. Accounting for inflation, the minimum wage of $3.00 in 1977 had the equivalent buying power of more than $11 today.
“Almost 30,000 Albertans earn the provincial minimum wage. This is a pressing issue to every one of them,” McGowan said. “Almost half of these workers are over the age of 24, and nearly half work these jobs full-time. There are too many people struggling to get by on too low a minimum wage.”
According to government estimates, 1.8% of Alberta’s 1,642,400 are earning minimum wage. More than 72 per cent of Albertans who earn minimum wage are women.
AFL Backgrounder: Minimum Wage 2013-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]