The Notley government is once again touting its plans for minimum wage increases.
The wage is set to go up to $12.20/hour starting on Saturday, progressively rising to $15/hour in 2018.
At a news conference in Edmonton highlighting the coming increase, Labour Minister Christina Gray told reporters that critics are over-simplifying the debate.
“Minimum wage earners are not, as some critics have said, just teenagers taking short-term jobs to make a little spending money while living at home,” Gray said. “The majority are women, and three-quarters are 20 years or older. Over 75% of them have permanent jobs and roughly two-thirds have been in the same job for over a year.”
Gray also says the government has a number of grants and programs available that will offset the costs that businesses will be facing with the increased wages.
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She made the announcement at Kunitz Shoes in Edmonton, where owner Dwane Kunitz said their previous investments, including making their wages already in-line with the future minimum wage, have led to benefits already.
“If we expect an employee to respect their job, we need to respect the employee and this begins with paying a living wage,” Kunitz said. “To not do so, is to say that an employee is worth less than the job we expect them to perform.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says it has done its own research, showing if businesses were faced with a $15/hour minimum wage right now, the first thing many would do is reduce the number of youth or inexperienced hires.