Some businesses in downtown Charlottetown say the increase to P.E.I.'s minimum wage announced Wednesday has come as surprising and unfortunate news.
Vu Ha, who opened the Pho Vietman restaurant just a year ago, says his bottom line has already taken a hit with two increases to the minimum wage. Now he's scrambling to rework his budget, with another 25 cent jump coming April 1.
"I'm very surprised," he said of the government's announcement. "$11.25 — that's very expensive for a small business."
Adjustment 'won't be easy'
Hamed Voghoufi, who owns and runs Brits Fish and Chips with his family, says the increase came as a shock to him, too.
"I was actually working at the restaurant, and the radio was on. That's how I heard about it," he said.
'Over time, it will definitely affect the number of staff, I would say.' - Hamed Voghoufi
Making adjustments at the restaurant before the increase on April "won't be easy," Voghoufi said.
"All this stuff over the whole year, it will affect a small business like ours. Over time, it will definitely affect the number of staff, I would say."
Need to improve notice: minister
Sonny Gallant, P.E.I.'s minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, says the Island's Employment Standards Board recommended the $0.25 increase to government back in the fall, but cabinet didn't approve the increase until this week.
"There was some restructuring in a few departments, and it's just the way things happened this year," Gallant said. "But [minimum wage reviews] happen every year. The thing we need to improve on is giving the business community more notice."
Gallant said his department will also look at how to consult more with stakeholders as part of the minimum wage review process — something Charlottetown's Chamber of Commerce has said it would like to see.
Meanwhile, there are no plans for any further increases to the minimum wage in 2017, Gallant said.
'We're talking about having a decent life'
Meanwhile, advocates for workers on P.E.I. are happy about the increase. Ann Wheatley, with the PEI Working Group for a Livable Income, said any wage increase is helpful for people living in poverty, or close to it.
"Twenty-five cents an hour isn't a huge amount, but it is in the right direction," said Wheatley.
She added that the increase will likely affect more than just those who earn minimum wage.
"Raising the minimum wage does tend to bring up other wages as well, so the impact could be more broadly felt," said Wheatley.
Wheatley said she understands that wage increases will mean added costs for businesses, but said business owners will have to accommodate those costs, just as they would with other costs that change year over year,
While Wheatley is happy to hear about the minimum wage increase, she said that the group would still like to see wages be much higher — at least $15.
"We should be striving for more than minimum, we should be setting our target a little bit higher than that," she said.
"It's beyond just the minimum, we're talking about having a decent life where people are able to afford to participate fully in society."