In less than a decade minimum wage has increased by more than 50 per cent, and it’s going up again. On April 1 minimum wage will go from the current $10 to $10.15.
There are differing views about the merits of this.
Ed Ng, an associate professor in the school of business at Dalhousie University, says the increase is a terrible idea. “If you look at this in the holistic perspective it’s making things worse because front line workers are not actually better off. They’re not actually buying more, they’re paying more taxes, they get less take-home money and everything’s more expensive,” said Ng. Ng said paying minimum wageworkers this way leads to a snowball effect of increased wages. The result, said Ng, is businesses pass on the extra cost of employees to consumers, and increase prices for goods and services. “In Halifax we experience a high cost of living and a low quality of life because we can buy less with the amount of money we make,” said Ng.
Tom Patterson, past executive director of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, is an employee representative on the provinces’ annual Minimum Wage Review Committee. Established in October 2003, the committee is made up of four members. Two employee representatives and two employer representatives make recommendations to the Provincial government. Since establishment, when minimum wage was $6.50, every recommendation has been implemented. Patterson says the rapid increase of minimum wage was necessary. “When I think about minimum wage, I think back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when I was a high school and university student … Back then I was able to save enough money to pay a substantial portion of my university education. But over time minimum wage was more or less frozen and dropped significantly in relation to inflation,” said Patterson.
Patterson said raising minimum wage has little impact on employment in the province. “There’s a need to have these people work. There’s work to be done and you need people to do it,” said Patterson.
With the upcoming increase in April, Nova Scotia will be above the national average minimum wage, $10 an hour. In 2011, employment in Nova Scotia did not match the growth in Canada.
Pam Jenkins owns Sweet Treats in Park Lane Mall. Jenkins says she understands business owners cutting hours and employees with the constant increase of minimum wage. Jenkins said she can’t cut hours because she only has two part-time employees.
She said the minimum wage increase makes her part-time employees a big monthly expense. “I just wish they would put a hold on it for a while … it’s just another expense you are trying to cope with and manage on top of everything else that is going on.”
But the increase means a lot to at least one minimum wage earner. Tom Taylor works part-time at Campus Copy on the Dalhousie campus. He said the increase of minimum wage means more to him than the monetary value. “The increase of minimum wage is a nice reminder that even as a part-time employee my hard work is appreciated and rewarded.”
Taylor works four short shifts a week but says the increase of minimum wage will make a difference to his paycheque. “Every little bit helps.”