B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains arrives at the start of the debate at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, June 26, 2017. The minimum wage in B.C. is going up on Monday, rising to $14.60 per hour from $13.85. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday

British Columbia’s lowest paid workers get a pay increase Monday with a scheduled minimum wage hike at a crucial time for small businesses as they look for ways to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase is part of the government’s pledge to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage by next year after a decade of no increases from 2001 to 2011.

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the government understands the pressures facing employers during the pandemic, but workers are also struggling.

“We’re all going through some very challenging times, no doubt about it,” he said in a recent interview.

Bains said the B.C. government’s $5 billion pandemic plan includes tax breaks and tax deferrals for businesses, and a $1.5 billion economic recovery fund. He said the federal government has also introduced wage subsidies for employers.

“Now, as much as ever, I think B.C.’s lowest paid workers also need support,” said Bains. “It’s not fair to ask them to delay their wage increase.”

READ MORE: B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

But Prof. Andrey Pavlov at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie school of business said the government should forgo the minimum wage increase and allow market forces to determine rates of pay.

The pressures of the pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to explore economic initiatives that don’t involve regulated minimum wages and government subsidies, he said.

“I’ve never been a fan of minimum wage increases because I believe wages should grow on their own through economic growth,” said Pavlov.

The minimum wage increase during a period when many businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic could be the final blow that results in them closing, putting people out of work, he said.

“Now, most businesses are thinking of shutting down or moving or restructuring in very substantial ways and you add that on top, it could be just the catalyst that pushes many businesses over the edge,” Pavlov said.

READ MORE: Pandemic-related restaurant closures take an emotional and financial toll

Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in B.C., said the province is an expensive place to live and life has become more difficult for low-wage workers because many have been laid off.

She said most people earning the minimum wage were not able to work from home.

“Many lost their jobs during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, and now we’re starting to reopen a number of them will be called back and I think it’s important that they actually earn decent wages,” Ivanova said. “We’ve known for a long time that the minimum wage was too low in B.C.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Statistics Canada reported B.C.’s unemployment rate in April increased to 11.5 per cent, with almost 400,000 lost jobs since March.

B.C. has eased some restrictions, allowing restaurants, hair salons and dentist offices to reopen but with physical distancing rules in place, businesses have taken cautious steps to restart.

Labour Ministry data shows 60 per cent of people earning the minimum wage in B.C. are female and 93 per cent of minimum wage jobs are in the service sectors, including cleaning services, grocery stores and restaurants, Bains said.

Quebec increased its minimum wage on May 1. Minimum wages in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon increased on April 1.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

British ColumbiaCoronaviruseconomyMinimum Wage

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Offline at the Agassiz Library

Physical book check-outs are back

Vancouver double homicide leads to arrest in Harrison Hot Springs Wednesday

VPD and RCMP tracked dumped vehicle connected to killings to Chilliwack

Ride for cancer in Langley will take place Sunday, despite COVID-19

Annual fundraiser will be ‘really different,’ but classic cars are expected, organizer promises

Multiple accidents slowing westbound Highway 1 traffic

3 accidents in Langley, Abbotsford within 30 minutes

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Police nab three impaired drivers in one night in Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Most Read