Minimum wage gets boost

An increase to B.C.’s minimum wage is garnering acceptance.

It was announced Wednesday that minimum wage, which is currently $8 an hour, is climbing to $8.75 May 1, and then to $9.50 Nov. 1 and to $10.25 May 1, 2012.

“We did a survey of our members in the fall   and the overwhelming response was minimum wage needed to be increased,” said Deb Leroux, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce president.

“Most that responded said they weren’t paying the minimum wage (they were paying more, so increasing it wasn’t going to increase costs.”

The $6 an hour training wage is being scrapped as of May 1, 2011.

Leroux said it’s been challenging for some businesses to attract workers because of the minimum wage.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, supports the decision of Premier Christy Clark to raise the rate.

“The economy is picking up a bit and people on minimum wage deserve a bump,” he said.

A year ago, Foster slammed calls for a higher wage. He believes the situation has changed.

“The business community is feeling a little more confident. The economy was in the tank last year,” he said.

It was also announced Wednesday that there will be a special minimum wage rate for people who serve alcohol as part of their job.

The wage for liquor servers will be $8.50 an hour May 1, $8.75  Nov. 1 and $9 May 1, 2012.

Foster says the special category recognizes the fact that most people who serve liquor in restaurants and bars get tips.

“If a server is getting $18 or $20 an hour (with tips), they’re not getting minimum wage,” he said.

Foster also insists there was a need to restrict the special wage to  those who serve alcohol and not the entire restaurant industry.

“People who work in the fast food sector don’t receive tips,” he said.

The liquor server wage is drawing fire from unions.

“Workers who earn tips are routinely asked to pay for items like theft and breakage, including dine and dash, along with forced sharing of tips sometimes including with management,” said Jim Sinclair, B.C. Federation of Labour president, in a press release.

“With no oversight from the Ministry of Labour and additional cuts in this year’s budget, this puts servers at risk of abuse.”

The B.C. Conservatives believes the Liberals aren’t being accountable to the public with the minimum wage increase.

“Telling 60,000 members of the B.C. Liberal Party her plans, is not exactly public consultation – whether you agree with this increase or not,” said Wayne McGrath, party president and former Vernon mayor.