Business owners concerned with minimum wage hike

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Some local business owners are concerned with the Province’s most recent minimum wage hike from $12.20 to $13.60 Oct. 1.

The hike is part of the Province’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 in 2018 and eliminate the lower wage for liquor servers.

Dmitri Martini, owner of Sorso Coffee in Airdrie, said he thinks the wage hike is detrimental to small businesses, especially those in the serving industry, where liquor servers and baristas receive tips on top of their hourly wages.

“In a lot of cases, they’re taking $200 or more home a day just in tips. If you calculate that into an hourly wage, you’ll now have servers who, in more popular restaurants at least, are making $30, $40, $50, $60 an hour,” he said. “It’s not even that people aren’t worth a wage and can’t be appreciated, but it’s such an aggressive hike.”

He opened the coffee shop in June 2015 and employs 13 people. He said the wage hike is “careless” and “reckless” and was implemented at a bad time, when the province is in a recession.

“It’s just going to affect the quality of everything and the prices of everything across the board,” he said. “Small businesses have to find ways to make up that cost and still try to provide a good service, which is kind of an impossible balance.”

The minimum wage hike could also mean less hours for staff members, he said.

“Alberta is no longer a place where people can dream to do something,” he said. “I just would hope that the average Joe out there can appreciate what small businesses are going through to deliver a product that they’re passionate about.”

Jori Enberg, general manager at Bambino’s Neighbourhood Pub, said the business will have to increase prices to make up for the wage increase as well.

“Everything needs to go up,” he said. “Minimum wage increases but it doesn’t do anything for the cost of living – everything else goes up with it.”

He said the price increase will likely mean less tips for servers.

“It’s certainly affecting our servers because with the minimum wage increase they’re making more hourly but they’re definitely making less in tips,” he said. “People aren’t going to be inclined to hit 20 or 15 per cent now because the mentality is, ‘well, they’re making $15 an hour, I don’t need to tip them as well.’”

Not all business owners are against the wage increase. Farouk Elsaghir, co-owner of Pauls Pizza, said he is in favour of it.

“Everybody deserves it. A lot of people are underpaid as it is,” he said. “There’s always other ways to find money to make up for it.”

Pauls Pizza opened in Airdrie in 1995 and has established a solid customer base, so Elsaghir said the business won’t suffer from the wage hike as much as others might.

According to a press release issued by the Province Sept. 29, more than 292,000 Albertans earn less than $15 an hour and nearly 40 per cent of those people have children.

“All hard-working people deserve to earn enough money to support themselves and their families. Our government is staying true to our commitment to make life better for those Albertans who earn the bare minimum,” Minister of Labour Christina Gray said in the release. “This increase will boost the spending power of low income people, which supports Alberta’s economic recovery.”

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