Businesses consider minimum wage increases

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Minimum wage will be the topic of discussion at an upcoming round table discussion hosted by the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 28.

Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has received plenty of complaints from the business community regarding the increase.

“This is affecting people and businesses in all different levels,” she said. “We are still in a recession, things haven’t bounced back completely and people are still seeing a decrease in sales.”

Minimum wage went up for the second time on Oct. 1, from $12.20 per hour to $13.60 per hour. Next October minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour.

McCurdy said the round table discussion is an opportunity to hear from owners on how minimum wage has impacted their business.

“I think it’s important that people put a face and a name to the stories. It’s one thing to talk about small businesses, but when you actually talk to the owners and hear the owners’ stories, some of these stores and restaurants might close because they just can’t afford to stay open,” she said. “It’s important that we hear those stories.”

Michael Mazepa, owner of St. Albert Inn and Suites, said the last wage increase added an additional $4,000 to his monthly payroll.

“Minimum wage is a benchmark, everything else happens from there,” he said.

Depending on the position, staff at the hotel have always been paid well above minimum wage, giving the business a competitive advantage. Now with the increases, Mazepa said they’re struggling to stay ahead.

“I have people that have worked for me for 25 and 30 years, and we have always paid a competitive rate,” he said. “Part of the problem is when the minimum wage is increased, the people who are making the $15 or $16 mark, they’re not happy because the bottom end has come up.”

In order to handle the increases he said they’ve had to let some staff go. The hotel opened over 40 years ago, and up until last year, had around 120 employees.

He said the hotel now has 100 staff, which could be further reduced after the final wage increase.

Other businesses in St. Albert have had to make similar changes to help handle the increases. One business in particular, Grapevine Deli, started closing its restaurant on Mondays back in July.

McCurdy said the feedback gathered from the round table would be used to advocate for the business community.

Earlier this year the chamber posted an online survey regarding the minimum wage increases. Around 20 business owners responded to the survey, some saying the changes had minimal impacts on their businesses while others saying the changes were substantial.

“Looking at the $12.20 from last year to $15 per hour for just one individual employee, that’s increasing your payroll by $6,000 a year. You start adding that up and it’s a huge impact on the businesses,” said McCurdy.

She said businesses have had to make up the lost revenue in other places, such as increasing prices or letting go of staff.

The location for the event is still to be determined. Business owners interested in participating in the round table can register at http://www.stalbertchamber.com

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.