Montreal

Increase of Quebec's minimum wage should be gradual, businesses caution

Following the announcement that Quebec will be increasing its minimum wage in May, one restaurant owner is suggesting that increases be tailored to different kinds of businesses.

Minimum wage climbing 50 cents to $12.50 for workers not earning tips, $10.05 for those getting tips May 1

Thanjai Restaurant owner Kumaresan Muthukrishnan is thankful Quebec's minimum wage increase is manageable. (CBC)

Thanjai Restaurant owner Kumaresan Muthukrishnan says he can absorb Quebec's newly announced minimum wage increase, and hopes the province keeps future increases manageable as well.

Quebec's minimum wage will go up by 50 cents to $12.50 an hour on May 1, Labour Minister Jean Boulet announced Wednesday.

Muthukrishnan's restaurant is in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, but he has another location in Ottawa.

Ontario's minimum wage jumped from $11.60 to $14 in 2018 and he said that was harder to handle.

"If we pay more, we have to reduce the people," Muthukrishnan said.

The other alternative is increasing prices, which would hurt business, he said.

Navaldeep Kaur is from India and has worked at the restaurant as a waitress for about two years. Because she earns tips, her wage will go up from $9.80 to $10.05 in May.

"This restaurant feels like home," she said.

Navaldeep Kaur, 28, has been working at the restaurant for about two years. (CBC)

Muthukrishnan thinks large chain stores may have an easier time absorbing the increased labour cost. Simons, a department store, recently announced it would increase its employees' minimum salary to $16 per hour.

Le Conseil québécois du commerce de détail (CQCD), an association representing Quebec retailers, issued a statement on Wednesday in opposition to the increase.

The CQDC said retailers operate with slim profit margins and a sudden increase in wage costs will make it difficult to stay afloat.

"With every wage increase, the survival of small retailers is in danger. We can't forget that these retailers play an economic and social role in their community," Léopold Turgeon, the head of the CQCD, said in a statement.

About 288,000 workers will see their hourly wage go up, and the labour minister said small businesses are being kept in mind during the increases.

"It's respectful to the capacity to pay of the small and medium sized businesses. And it has a very positive impact on the increase of the purchasing powers of employees in Quebec," Boulet said.

Quebec's largest labour federation, the FTQ, is pushing for a $15 minimum wage.

"It's a good effort, but honestly, not enough," FTQ president Daniel Boyer said.

With files from Sudha Krishnan

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