Wages of workers who earn tips were on chopping block during pandemic
EDMONTON – The Alberta conservative government floated the idea of cutting the minimum wage in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic for “economic recovery”, according to heavily censored internal government documents.
“The UCP simply don’t care about the plight of Alberta workers earning minimum wage,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL). “It’s infuriating that the UCP views wage cuts to some of the poorest workers in our province as some sort of economic stimulus.”
In the summer of 2020, the AFL requested records on Alberta’s minimum wage, including plans to cut the minimum wage for certain groups, such as restaurant and bar staff. The records the AFL received are heavily redacted after a lengthy delay.
“Jason Kenney and the UCP created their so-called expert panel on minimum wage in order to justify cutting the wages of restaurant and bar staff. The UCP stacked the panel with industry insiders and torqued the terms of reference to lead to the conclusion that restaurant and bar staff should earn lower wages. Albertans paid for the panel’s report, but it’s secret,” says McGowan.
“The records we received are threadbare. They’re censored nearly to the point of being useless in terms of holding the government to account. But they do show that in the spring of 2020, the UCP considered changing the minimum wage as part of an “economic recovery discussion” for small and family business,” says McGowan. “This is the same coldhearted justification the UCP brought forward when they cut the minimum wage for young workers: lower wages to help the economy.”
“Workers who earn minimum wage haven’t had a raise in years. Their purchasing power has been decimated by rising costs, but they’ll receive no help from the UCP. In fact, in the spring of 2020, when our economy was being roiled by COVID-19 and many workers who earn tips couldn’t actually work, the UCP wanted to cut their wages.”