The Surrey Board of Trade presented their unique business and social perspective to the Fair Wages Commission to on how to move towards a $15-an-hour minimum wage with increases that are regular, measured and predictable.

A boost to the minimum wage is especially challenging for Metro Vancouver-based businesses that also have to contend with high employee turnover, increasing land cost sof land, rising rents and leases, and rising increased tax and utilities burdens, among other financial challenges. What we hope the government does is formulate a wage system that is predictable in which a business can plan for. It must be articulated that as a business owners with bank loans and employees, margins are often slim.

“What we would like the government to do , is to formulate a wage system that is predictable. The Surrey Board of Trade has a longstanding policy that minimum wage rates are to be linked to the CPI for increases going forward to provide a level of predictability for businesses,” said Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade. “This would allow long-term planning and ensures no sudden large increases in their labour costs. If a $15/hour is the decision of government, decided upon, then we recommend that this take place in 2019 to give employers time to adjust and that the implementation is done in stages, culminating with full implementation in no less than 3 years – 5 years would be better to ensure that business can integrate this into their business planning cycle.”

On the other hand, currently, the minimum wage in B.C. is $11.35 an hour. In B.C., 25% of all workers make less than $15 an hour. These financial constraints may produce not only economic hardships such as spiraling debt, but also people in poverty are much more likely to suffer from physical, emotional and mental-health issues. This presentation will speak to this further in my remarks shortly.

Business are being asked to carry ever higher minimum wage levels with no understanding as to whether the increase will lead to any improvement in social outcomes. More education and facts are needed. The opportunity is for government to provide regular and accurate information through a Minimum Wage Fact Sheet providing a clear picture of who earns the minimum wage, track the breakdown of minimum wage earners over time and reduction in poverty (we know that BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada).

The opportunity to offer a wage subside for 6 months to qualified businesses to offset rising costs and find business efficiencies. We know that 65% of jobs in the near future will be automated as an employment shift in our economy.

The Surrey Board of Trade is pleased that this consultative process exists.

Currently, the minimum wage in B.C. is $11.35 an hour. In B.C., 25% of all workers make less than $15 an hour. These financial constraints produce not only economic hardships such as spiraling debt, but also people in poverty are much more likely to suffer from physical, emotional and mental-health issues. As an organization that advocates for business, we are also well aware of the impact of poverty on a community, that likewise impacts business.

“So although we are concerned about the impact of sudden increases on our small businesses members, we also are aware that We have the highest rates of child poverty in Canada. If business can invest in ensuring every employee pays their workforce a fair wage, this can result in positive impacts for businesses and the communities in which we live in.”

“Morale is high, turnover is low, and every employee gives a hundred and ten percent. Everyone who is works full time should be able to independently afford a basic standard for quality of life without relying on sub-par government support or second or third jobs. Nothing drives job creation more than consumer demand, and nothing drives consumer demand more than higher wages. Employers are job-creators. Decisions around minimum wage should not discourage investment, job creation, and economic growth.”

Some of the observations that the Surrey Board of Trade made included:

1.     Minimum wage increases will reduce the cost of doing business

2.     Minimum wage will reduce impact to small businesses and impact large businesses more

3.     Raising the minimum wage will not destroy jobs

4.     Impact to young workers

5.     Holistic perspective

“Raising the minimum wage is about reducing inequality, but it is also about restoring the true value of work. To conclude, raising the minimum wage is good for business and good for us all. Paying workers fairly isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s what makes our communities and businesses thrive: happy employees mean lower turnover and higher productivity. Workers who make more spend more, putting money back into the economy, rather than being forced to rely on public assistance programs. However, we do want to ensure that it is done carefully and with due diligence so that it does not become a barrier for small business start-ups and business growth so needed for our economy.”

Full Presentation

The Fair Wages Commission is committed to three main tasks:

  1. The Fair Wages Commission will first develop recommendations for a pathway forward to raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour and on a process for how the minimum wage should be regularly reviewed and increased once $15-an-hour is achieved.
  2. The Commission will consider and make recommendations about other wage rates under the Employment Standards Regulation, for agricultural workers, liquor servers, live-in home support workers, resident caretakers, and live-in camp leaders.
  3. The Commission will advise the Government on ways to begin to address the discrepancy between the minimum wage and living wages in our province.
  4. The Fair Wages Commission has been directed to work with economists, trade unions, the technology sector, small businesses, youth and others from all regions of the province to put forward a plan to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage in British Columbia.