Time for a raise

Inflation can sneak up on you. One minute you’re spending $7 for a BLT and fries. The next it’s $9.

Inflation can sneak up on you.

One minute you’re spending $7 for a BLT and fries. The next it’s $9.

If you’re earning a reasonable wage, you eat the difference.

If you’re earning minimum wage, you don’t eat at all.

In the Yukon, the minimum wage hasn’t increased since 1998. It is still pegged at $7.20 an hour.

However, since ‘98 the average consumer price index has increased about 14 per cent.

So, the Yukon employment standards board has stepped in to improve the lot of low-wage workers.

It wants to raise the minimum wage $1.05, taking it to $8.25 an hour. And it wants to begin annual increases equal to the cost of living.

Local business is balking.

Adding $1.05 an hour to employee wages would be disastrous to workers and business, said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

He wants the government to phase in the raise over two years, or longer.

Otherwise, worker hours would have to be cut, fewer workers hired and profits would vanish.

Oh, and pigs would fly.

First, if cost of living has increased 14 per cent over the last seven years, then local business is pulling in substantially more coin per good sold.

And if they aren’t paying their lowest-paid workers more, then they are making increased profits at those employee’s expense.

Second, there is currently a shortage of workers in Whitehorse, so most employers are already forced to bid higher to recruit people for starting positions. Because of that, fear mongering about a higher minimum wage is, in most cases, a philosophical point, not based in reality.

Nevertheless, because of that, it’s even more important to step in and champion those few stuck on the bottom rung.

Third, increasing the minimum wage makes it more profitable for people on social assistance to enter the labour force. Fewer people on government assistance helps to keep taxes low — another frequent demand of business.

Fourth, minimum-wage workers aren’t flying to Vancouver to spend their hard-earned cash in boutiques. They’re spending it in town, so there’s a visible economic multiplier to raising the minimum wage.

Fifth, flush with millions in new federal transfers, the Yukon economy is purring along, so the time is right to implement a minimum-wage increase.

Roughly half the minimum-wage workforce are teenagers, new to the workforce. But that means the rest are adults.

Most of these people are working part time, logging, on average, about 20 hours a week.

So the weekly pay will rise to $165 from $144 — up $21.

The extra payroll taxes — WCB, EI and CPP — on that extra $1.05 an hour is roughly 10 cents an hour.

Total cost to employer, $23 per employee, per week.

Any business that can’t absorb that has bigger problems on its hands.

So the government should endorse a higher minimum wage immediately.

It’s only fair to hard-working people. (RM)

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