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Council throws (some) weight behind minimum wage raise

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

Amidst calls from several mayors across the province to raise the lowest minimum wage in Canada, city council has added its voice to the call, with an asterisk.

Council passed a motion Oct. 4 to send a letter to the Provincial government requesting a raise of the minimum wage up to $10 per hour, but they did not attach an exact dollar figure to what they supported. The item was brought forth by Coun. Robin Cherbo.

In a joint letter dated over one week ago, 21 mayors and the B.C. Federation of Labour asked Premier Gordon Campbell to scrap the $6-an-hour training wage and raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour.

B.C.'s minimum wage is the lowest in Canada but some of the province’s business leaders have said the economy is too unstable to raise it. With the economy of the West Kootenay teetering, Nelson city council sort of agrees with that sentiment.

“You have to take into account what sort of impact this is going to have on business,” said Mayor John Dooley. “What are businesses going to do? Are they going to lay people off? Well, that is counterproductive since it, in turn, puts people on some sort of income assistance.”

Most of the 1,200 businesses in Nelson are small, with only a few employees. Raising the wage up to $10 per hour could be the difference for a business in Nelson being viable or not, said Mayor Dooley.

“People should get fair wages but you have to look at this wholistically,” he said. “Is $10 per hour a decent wage? To some people it probably isn’t. But is $8 per hour a decent wage? Absolutely not.

“But the training wage should be scrapped, that’s not realistic.”

BC employers can pay $6 an hour to employees with less than 500 hours cumulative work experience. The work experience may have taken place inside or outside of BC or Canada.

The only West Kootenay mayor who signed the document out of 21 mayors was the Trail’s Dieter Bogs.

According to figures from the labour federation, an estimated 63,000 BC workers earn the minimum wage, while another 293,000 make less than $10 an hour.