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

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Ladysmith man arrested in Saanich after towed sawmill draws attention

Police located the man thanks to social media and a keen-eyed witness

Killer whales cause a scene

WHALE OF A TALE Art Carlyle captured these images of killer whales… Continue reading

Ladysmith man shocked out of his seat after $50,000 Keno win

Larry Salmond plans to purchase a new RV with his winnings

Green Party pins Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding hopes on Istace

Leader Furstenau in town for the announcement of Chemainus businessman’s candidacy

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

Most Read