Effective Oct. 1, the Ontario government will increase the minimum wage from $16.55 per hour to $17.20, which will impact some employers, a business advocate says.
The increase reflects a 3.9-per cent annualized wage increase based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index, bringing the province’s minimum wage to the second-highest in Canada. British Columbia is at $17.40 per hour.
About 35 per cent of workers at or below the current general minimum wage are in retail trade and 24 per cent are in accommodation and food services.
Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, said any business that is taking those entry-level employees will be impacted by the increase.
“Whenever the minimum wage goes up, it means that everybody else wants to see the same increase,” Robinson said. “It means (business operators) have to recalculate everybody else’s wages because now the differential between someone who’s been there for six months, and someone who’s been there for three years, shrinks. So it basically bumps everybody up a little bit to recognize the changing market value.”
Robinson said the province’s six-month wage increase notice provides an opportunity for businesses to plan and prepare.
“But definitely in these really challenging times when we know that disposable income is not what it was, people aren’t spending on extras right now, the way that maybe they have previously because costs have gone up so quickly,” she said.
“Businesses are already struggling with reduced revenue and reduced income because people aren’t spending in that way.”
She added those businesses are going to be making hard choices about hiring, reducing staff hours, office hours or store hours.
Robinson pointed out that many of these businesses are also trying to pay off their pandemic-era Canada Emergency Business Account loans, which is an added cost that they haven’t been dealing with previously.
Theresa Stewart, owner of The Social restaurant, agrees that the minimum wage increase will bring challenges for her business.
“(The province) just hit us with the liquor tax increase and I had to raise all the prices,” she said. “The grocery bill goes up, the taxes go up and now minimum wage goes up. It’s kind of killing us.”
With 14 minimum wage staff, Stewart worries that she might have to cut back shifts and says the government needs to cut or eliminate the taxing of small businesses.
“I’d much rather have a wage increase than the taxes because at least it’s going to my staff,” she said.
“I consider myself extremely lucky because I do have amazing staff here. I certainly don’t want to see anybody live in poverty but if the government’s going to keep doing this, they have to stop hitting us with all the taxes on top of it.”
K&A Variety and Gas Bar co-owner, Crystal MacLaurin, says they don’t start anybody at minimum wage.
“Everyone’s above minimum wage,” she said. “With this place being so busy, I can’t pay minimum wage, it’s too much work.”
MacLaurin will deal with the minimum wage increase because keeping her employees well paid is “100 per cent” important.
“I probably have the best employees in Thunder Bay and they deserve it,” she said.
After Oct. 1, a worker making the general minimum wage and working 40 hours per week will see an annual pay increase of up to $1,355. In 2023, 935,600 workers earned at or below $17.20 per hour.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 19, 2024 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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