British Columbia

B.C.'s minimum wage increases to $15.20 per hour

B.C.’s lowest paid workers will get a boost on their next paycheck as minimum wage increases today from $14.60 per hour to $15.20.

Increase makes B.C.'s the 2nd highest minimum wage in Canada

A man in an employee's apron sorts fruit in a grocery store aisle.
The province's lowest paid workers will get a boost on their next paycheck as the minimum wage increase on June 1, 2021. (wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

B.C.'s lowest paid workers will get a boost on their next paycheck as the minimum wage increases from $14.60 per hour to $15.20 on Tuesday.

That puts B.C.'s as the second highest minimum wage in the country, next to Nunavut's, where minimum wage is $16.

The increase has been planned for several years; the B.C. government announced an annual increase for every June 1 in 2018, when the minimum wage was $11.35. 

The new rate also applies to liquor servers, for whom the minimum wage has historically been lower as workers relied on tips to make up the difference. For the past year, they've been making $13.95 per hour. 

A spokesperson for the B.C. Federation of Labour, which has been critical of the pace at which the increase was made, said this is a "victory" for low-paid, frontline workers who have helped British Columbians through the pandemic. 

"These are the workers who literally have been keeping the province running and keeping the grocery stores open and the gas stations open and all of that," secretary treasurer Sussanne Skidmore told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko. 

"And they deserve to have this dignified wage here in British Columbia." 

Skidmore said that while they'd like to see the minimum wage reflect the living wage in B.C., this is a start. 

The Living Wages for Families Campaign last calculated the living wage in Metro Vancouver at $19.50 an hour, but it plans to update those numbers in November. 

"Housing costs alone are such a big draw on people's wages but transportation and all of that [factors in as well]," Skidmore said.

"When these workers get more money in their pockets, that's money that goes automatically back into the economy."

Significant, but small

Dan Crich, Vancouver grocery store employee, says he'll be earning roughly $1,000 more a year now, but that's not really going to make a huge difference for him.

He said he spends more than half of his monthly earnings on rent and the wage raise will be a "very little change."

"The 60 cents [increase to the minimum wage] is a nice thing to say, but at the end of the day it's not going to help me out very much," said Crich, speaking on CBC's The Early Edition Tuesday.

"It doesn't go a whole long way when you live in Vancouver."

Kai Rogers, a fourth-year business management student at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C., has been working part time on minimum wage since high school. He says the minimum wage increase means more money to help fund his university education but not enough to catch up with inflation.

Minimum wage in B.C. increases by 60 cents an hour on June 1, 2021. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

Iglika Ivanova, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, echoed Crich's sentiment.

"I think it's important that we reached this target, but at the end of the day … it is very small," said Ivanova.

"It's significant, it's symbolic, but it's small."

Paul Holden, president and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade, said that generally speaking members of his organization were supportive of the increase, but raised concerns about the speed at which the wages would go up.

He said he would have liked to see a more measured, predictable increase to minimum wage, tied to a consumer price index, for example. 

"I think from the point of view of helping those workers to see a continued path of improved salary, I think it has to be on that predictable level," he said.

Layoff concerns

Holden worries some members may have to look at passing the increased cost on to customers, or potentially laying off staff, because the additional cost of a wage increase has to be accounted for.

"The businesses over the last few years, they've seen increases in their property tax offset, increases in employer health tax. They've seen increases in minimum wage. There have been a number of these increases that have impacted businesses and many of those that were most impacted have been most impacted by COVID," he said. 

"We're hearing stories all the time from our members of people where it's just this constant building of additional costs and now in an environment where the revenue aspects are struggling."

Barry Yeo, the owner of Bliss Bakery in Kelowna, says a higher minimum wage means he will have to make his staff more lean and efficient.

"We have to find ways to …cross-train our staff and put more value into our staff," Yeo told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. "We want to retain people [because] training people is very, very expensive."

But Skidmore doesn't think that will be an issue. 

"We know that the money that goes into these workers' pockets immediately goes back into their communities and often into the businesses some of them even work in," she said. 

To hear more from Sussanne Skidmore and Paul Holden, tap here: 

To hear more from Barry Yeo and Kai Rogers in Kelowna, tap here:

With files from On the Coast and The Early Edition