Alberta's minimum wage increase too fast, Banff and Lake Louise business group warns
Hospitality association to meet with MLA this week to ask 'to slow the process down'
Businesses in the tourist towns of Banff and Lake Louise are appealing to the Alberta government to put a hold on the $15 minimum-wage increase expected to take effect in 2018.
"Clearly the economic environment has changed dramatically in the past year ... and we just think that is a cautious reason to pause and to slow the process down to look at what the economic impact has been so far with the increase to $15 per hour," said Darren Reeder, executive director of the Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association.
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Ever since the NDP campaigned on a platform to raise the minimum wage from $10.20 to $15 by 2018, there have been grumblings from small business and those in the hospitality industry.
The first increase took effect in October.
50% of operating costs
Bow Valley business owners are already on the hook for huge bills which help compensate employees for the high cost of living in the mountain towns, Reeder said.
That includes items such as subsidized meals and staff housing that can add up to 20 to 30 per cent above the cost of wages.
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Reeder said a $15 minimum wage would mean that 50 per cent of some businesses' operating costs would be dedicated to labour.
"It would mean that more has to be done with less because, not only are we talking about a huge increase in costs — the Bow Valley is also seeing some of the highest traffic they've ever seen."
Reeder said a rising minimum wage isn't the only obstacle facing Bow Valley business owners, as many are also dealing with a labour shortage resulting from changes to temporary foreign worker rules.
"Between the two, asking people to keep businesses going is going to be a whole new challenge," he said.
"This year, we are already looking at roughly an 1,100-staff shortage just when it comes to housekeepers in the Bow Valley."
Meeting with MLA
Reeder said he is meeting with the local MLA this week to talk about halting the $15 minimum wage.
"We want a moratorium on any more wage increases until a full analysis can be conducted on what the impact of this wage increase will be under Alberta's new economic circumstances."
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He's hopeful the government will listen.
"I have to believe our government wants to do what's best for our province and the truth is they just don't have the information on what this will do," he said. "You've got to think someone just asking them to have the data to back up their decisions is a reasonable consideration."
Premier Rachel Notley's deputy press secretary Matthew Williamson said the government plans to move forward with the minimum wage changes but will review economic data, given the challenges Alberta faces, before making final decisions.