Airdrie business owners concerned with minimum wage increase

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The Province increased the minimum wage to $12.20 for all Albertans Oct. 1. The increase is part of the Province’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 in 2018 and eliminate the lower wage for liquor servers.

Before Oct. 1, minimum wage earners were making $11.20 an hour and liquor servers were making $10.70. But the increase has some small business owners in Airdrie concerned.

Adnan Ahmad, owner of Boardwalk Fries Burgers Shakes, said the increase could force him to increase prices.

“Last year it wasn’t that bad because it was just starting to increase, but this year I can feel it. It’s very hard,” Ahmad said. “It’s not just me. Everybody else will get affected too.”

He said he has already had to cut hours because of the increase. Staff members who were working 30 hours a week are now working 10 to 15 hours a week and have had to take on more duties.

Debi Macleod, owner of The Avenue Cakery & Bakeshoppe, said she employs high school students to wash dishes and will have to cut their hours.

She said the Province should consider an age limit for workers earning $15 an hour.

“It doesn’t make sense to pay someone so much to do dishes after school,” Macleod said. “All of these high school kids at some point are no longer going to be able to get jobs because there’s going to be an adult that wants a job more that will do a better job.”

She said some business owners have to increase prices to make up for the wage increase but only minimum wage earners are making more money, so others have to pay more for services.

“It’s a little bit frustrating,” Macleod said. “It makes your other staff a little bit disgruntled when people are getting raises that don’t necessarily deserve them.”

Linda Bruce, president of the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce, said some small businesses in Airdrie are already struggling to stay afloat.

“I think primarily the issue is that many businesses feel this is not the best time to obviously be doing something like this,” Bruce said. “It could be a point where businesses have to start really considering A, whether they can hire anybody else or B, how long they can keep employees gainfully employed.”

She said many business owners in Airdrie have already had to close their doors recently.

“It’s just been too expensive for them to hang on,” Bruce said. “Small business is the backbone for the Alberta economy. Ninety-five per cent of all businesses in Alberta are actually small businesses, so if we are not careful about doing what we can to ensure that those businesses are able to continue on, it’s going to be harder and harder to recover when the economy turns around.”

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