(June 30/16) Despite strong evidence that now is not the time, the Alberta government announced a $1.00 increase to the minimum wage as of Oct. 1 and further increases to arrive at a $15 minimum wage by 2018.

– On Oct. 1, 2016, minimum wage will increase from $11.20 to $12.20
– On Oct. 1, 2016, the liquor server wage will be eliminated
– In 2017, minimum wage will rise by another $1.40 to $13.60
– in 2018, minimum wage will rise another $1.40 to $15.

This announcement flew in the face of a number of indicators that showed it’s the wrong time for a $15 minimum wage:

– The closure of a number of Calgary restaurants who cited the 2015 $1.00 and $1.50 minimum wage increases as one of the reasons they went out of business.
– Many Alberta restaurants barely surviving, given double-digit cost increases combined with double-digit decline in sales due to the recession.
– A 2015 minimum wage increase roughly four times higher than any other minimum wage increase in Canada.
– Even some organized labour groups admitting the timing of a $15 minimum wage was poor.

What Restaurants Canada did

Restaurants Canada formed an advisory committee with a number of Alberta members, to convince the Alberta government to take a more reasonable approach to minimum wage increases. We shared what we learned in consumer and industry research with mayors, municipalities, MLAs, the minister of labour and other stakeholders. We recommended the government:

– freeze minimum wage in 2016,
– maintain the current liquor server wage, and
– introduce a youth wage.

We also launched NotTheTime.ca which resulted in more than 1,000 Albertans writing to their MLA, the labour minister, and the premier.

Our campaign culminated with a minimum wage forum on June 21 featuring an Alberta economic update, a panel discussion on the impact of Alberta’s minimum wage by a cross section of industry operators from across Alberta, and a keynote address from a labour economics professor on the unintended negative employment consequences of such a large increase in minimum wage.

In the end the government ignored this input and proceeded with their campaign promise to increase minimum wage to $15 by 2018 – a 50% increase in just three years.

This means Alberta will have by the far the highest minimum wage in Canada, roughly 40% higher than the minimum wage in other provinces.

Call to Action

We will continue to educate the government about the impact of their minimum wage decision on your employees and your business. We need to hear from you! What are your plans with respect to hiring, scheduling and new investments, for example? Contact Western Canada Vice President Mark von Schellwitz at
mark@restaurantscanada.org. Any information provided will be treated as confidential unless you give approval to make the information public.

Watch for details on a more formal survey process for tracking how the minimum wage increases are affecting our industry.

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