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'Right thing to do': JJ Bean gives Ontario minimum wage to Vancouver staff

Regular JJ Bean customers may have noticed that the price of a full-bodied cup of Railtown has risen by a few cents. When the company had to increase wages for its Ontario employees to meet provincial law, it decided to also increase staff pay in Vancouver.

The company increased the price of products to offset the cost of wage increases

JJ Bean decided to give its Vancouver employees a wage increase after Ontario hiked its minimum wage from $11.60 to $14. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Regular JJ Bean customers may have noticed that the price of a full-bodied cup of Railtown has risen by a few cents.

The company, which has stores in Toronto and Vancouver, increased the price of its products from one to three per cent on Jan. 1 to offset Ontario's minimum wage hike, which went from $11.60 to $14 an hour. 

When the company had to increase wages for its Ontario employees to meet provincial law, it decided to also increase staff pay in Vancouver.

"We couldn't treat one set of staff differently than another staff. So we just decided to bite the bullet and do what is right for everybody," said John Neate, founder of JJ Bean.

The company raised its prices one to three per cent across Canada, which it says, depending on the product, amounts to an increase of anywhere between five and 50 cents. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

While JJ Bean dips into corporate social responsibility, the move isn't without risk. 

The retail business in Vancouver has been particularly volatile. High rents and property tax increases have put pressure on small businesses to close across the city.

There is also is worry higher prices could result in loss of customers. 

"We hope we survive through it ... I want to pay people more, but how much are customers willing to pay?" said Neate. 

JJ Bean said increasing the wages of its Vancouver staff was the honourable thing to do. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Shafik Bhalloois, an associate professor at Simon Fraser's Beedie School of Business, believes most national-type franchises will be concerned with customer attrition and won't follow in JJ Bean's footsteps, unless they're mandated by provincial law, which may be in B.C.'s future.

The NDP government campaigned on raising Vancouver's minimum wage to $15 an hour from $11.35 by 2021, though it later abandoned the four-year deadline. 

Instead, it called on an independent review panel to suggest a new timeline. 

The Ministry of Labour said the Fair Wages Commission is currently conducting research to determine how and when the minimum wage in B.C. will increase to $15 an hour. 

Labour Minister Harry Bains said he is well aware of concerns from Ontario businesses, which say the wage increase in that province happened too fast.

The Vancouver-based company hopes its bold move will not filter out customers. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)