Premier Christy Clark avoids making bold decision by indexing minimum wage to provincial CPI

PREMIER Christy Clark could have made another one of her past bold moves on increasing B.C.’s minimum wage (the hated former premier Gordon Campbell had kept it frozen to oblige his rich business friends), but she chose to avoid doing that and instead very conveniently indexed increases in the general minimum hourly wage and liquor server wage to B.C.’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Clark let Shirley Bond, Minister for Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, and Minister Responsible for Labour, make that disappointing announcement on Thursday.

Of course, no reasonable person would have expected her to increase the minimum hourly wage to $15 right away as the B.C. Federation of Labour wants. But an increase to $11 at least would have been the right and decent thing to do. Ontario’s minimum wage is $11.

Bond said the government is committed to reasonable and predictable yearly minimum wage increases linked to B.C. CPI. Going forward, from 2016 onward, the minimum wage will be determined using a formula calculated upon the percentage the B.C. Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased in the previous calendar year. In years where there is a negative CPI change, the minimum wage would stay the same.

In addition, this indexing formula is being applied to the period since the last minimum wage increase in 2012. Effective September 15, 2015, the general minimum hourly wage will increase from $10.25 to $10.45 and the liquor server wage from $9 to $9.20 per hour.

The daily rate for live-in home support workers and live-in camp leaders, as well as the monthly rates for resident caretakers and the farm worker piece rates (for harvesters of certain fruits and vegetables) are increased proportionate to the 20-cent increase in the general minimum hourly wage. All of the new rates will take effect on September 15, 2015.

The government will announce the yearly increase to the minimum wage in March to take effect September 15 each year, giving businesses the necessary lead time to implement the new minimum wage without undue hardship.

Currently in B.C., people earning minimum wage represent 110,400 employees, or 5.9% of the paid workforce, below the national average of 7.2%. Of those B.C. employees earning minimum wage during 2014:

* 100,800 (91%) worked in the service producing sector.

* 62,500 (57%) were part time workers.

* 7,800 (7%) were defined as being the head of the family.

* 57,800 (52%) lived with their parents.

* Of the minimum wage earners living with their parents, 47% were attending school.