Workers welcome base pay boost

Smithers workers welcomed B.C.’s new minimum wage last week, but the move was not without some growing pains.

Smithers workers welcomed B.C.’s new minimum wage last week—a raise many said was overdue.

But the move was not without some growing pains.

On Tuesday, B.C.’s minimum wage rose to $10.25, the last of three raises up from $8 a year ago.

Cheryl Ann Stahel, manager at Smithers’ Work BC employment office, says it’s a significant increase.

“The first time it went up, people didn’t really see it,” Stahel said.

“The next time the attitude had slightly changed: ‘Okay, I see the bucks on my paycheque.’”

Stahel said the new $10.25 an hour wage is a better deal than income assistance, and not only in dollar terms.

“Work skills, things to put on your resumé, independence—all of that can start at $10 an hour,” she said.

As for business owners, Smithers Chamber of Commerce President George Whitehead said most are content with the move.

“A lot of them were paying above minimum wage,” said Whitehead, noting that high labour demand in the region drives wages up.

But the new base pay may push other increases, since workers who were paid $2 or $3 above minimum a year ago may want an increase also.

“I know that issue has weighed on a lot of people,” he said.

“That is maybe a bigger issue for more businesses.”

Some liquor servers also feel left out by the change. Because Canadians tend to tip, the province only raised their minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Jessie Fraser has been in the industry ten years, and says the tips mean she always has ready cash.

“I’m never out of milk,” she says, laughing.

But Fraser said she would gladly do away with tips for more stable pay.

“We’re kinda getting stiffed,” she said. “I would rather take benefits and a better wage.”

Several younger workers said the wage boost is a great idea.

“I like that it’s going up,” said high school student Rebecca Lowe.

“It helps families that aren’t getting by so well.”

But Lowe said the increase might mean young people have to work harder to land their first jobs.

Since the raise, B.C. now ties Ontario for the province with the highest minimum wage, though both trail the Yukon’s $11 an hour.

From 2001 until it began increasing last May, B.C.’s minimum wage was $8 an hour.