Edmonton

Minimum wage hike worries small business owners

Restaurant owner Sahara Noor has struggled with road construction in front of her business, a deep economic downturn and now faces rising costs as Alberta's minimum wage sets to rise $1 an hour Thursday.

Restaurant owner Sahara Noor says hike will force her to cut hours for employees

Sahara Noor, owner of Al Qudus Restaurant, says she will have to cut staff hours to compensate for the increase to minimum wage which happens Thursday. (CBC)

For entrepreneur Sahara Noor, the last four months have been difficult since she opened her halal restaurant, Al Qudus, in Edmonton.

Road construction out front, an economic downturn and now another blow as staff wages are scheduled to rise $1 an hour thanks to the minimum wage hike scheduled for Alberta on Thursday.

"I feel very worried," she said as she​ fried up seasoned goat meat in the kitchen.

The 10 per cent hike to $11.20 an hour is the first step in the province's plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018, one of the highest in the country.

Edmonton Chamber of Commerce president Janet Riopel said many business owners are worried about the impact.

"We really want to slow it down," she said. "We really want to understand what these impacts could be."

Riopel suggests the hike will be detrimental to the very people it's supposed to help.

"(Owners will) have to start either scaling back hours or they're going to have to lay off individuals. We're hearing that they will have to scale back benefits that they offer to their employees."

Noor said she hopes to increase wages once she can afford to, but for now will cut staff hours for her four employees so her restaurant can survive.

Premier Rachel Notley defended her government's decision to increase minimum wage. 

"I'm of the view, and I think there's some fairly strong evidence to support this view, that putting additional monies into the pockets of the lowest income earners actually serves to generate economic activity."  

The province also said it's taking a measured approach as requested by chambers of commerce across the province and will monitor the impact.

Thursday's minimum wage hike will affect about 115,400 people. 

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