Tom Dyas, President of the Kelowna Chamber, said Friday that overall, the Chamber supports a predictable formula for wage increases, one which is tied to inflation, via the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
“The Chamber appreciates the provincial government’s announcement February 27, basing the rate on the CPI,” said Dyas. “It’s also great to read that the percentage of employees earning minimum wage declined from 7.5% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2016 in B.C.” The national average for people earning minimum wage is 6.9%.
“Businesses want predictability,” Dyas continued, “so that their annual budgets and plans don’t take an unanticipated hit. The bottom line for business is taking the politics out of minimum wage increases. We are strong supporters of businesses as engines of employment. Reducing the small business tax in last week’s budget from 2.5% down to 2% was a positive move. This takes money the business was paying in tax, and returns it to the business owner to spend as needed.
“We certainly realize,” said Dyas, “that a living wage is nearer to $15 an hour or even higher in some jurisdictions. It’s notable that the Surrey Board of Trade canvassed its members, and found 60% support for an even higher increase.” Anita Huberman, CEO of the Board in Surrey, said that they “found that very interesting. Absolutely employers want to take care of their workers.”
As Huberman says, workers constitute ‘human capital’ for businesses, the kind of capital that is a vital contribution to a business’s productivity and to a region’s economy.
Closer to home, the South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council wants to see the minimum wage go up to closer to $19 an hour, an increase that would put many valley businesses into freefall. The Council does admit that any such rise has to be done slowly.
The Kelowna Chamber supports increases in minimum wage tied to the CPI, as stated, and applauds the provincial government for budget initiatives that help businesses, in particular small businesses, counter labour cost increases by moves such as the reduction in the small business tax, and the removal of the PST on electricity, as well as the rollback in MSP premiums paid by businesses on behalf of their workforce.