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Surrey Board of Trade says minimum wage increase will hit small businesses hard

SBOT CEO Anita Huberman says companies will have to become ‘innovative’
(File photo)

Surrey Board of Trade Anita Huberman CEO says small businesses will be hit hard by the minimum wage increases announced by the NDP government Tuesday.

“The difference between the Liberal government and NDP government increases is only by 20 or 30 cents, so in the overall picture it’s minimal but every single penny counts,” she said. “Especially for the small businesses.”

B.C.’s minimum wage is going up 50 cents next month as part of a plan to hit $15 per hour by 2021.

NDP labour minister Harry Bains made the announcement on Tuesday, saying the rate will go up by 50 cents, to $11.35 an hour, in September. The liquor servers’ wage will go up by the same amount to $10.10 per hour.

“We were originally advocates of a minimum wage increase when the Liberals were in power because we’re the lowest minimum wage in Canada as a province and we have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. We were, as a business organization, very different, supporting a minimum wage increase, but the move towards a $15 minimum wage, small business has to prepare now.”

Businesses will be forced to adjust either by changing their service level or finding ways to improve productivity and become “innovative,” she said.

Small businesses argue minimum wage increases will make it even more difficult for them to make ends meet amid a growing number of rising costs and will likely force them to cut costs, including jobs, and potentially raise prices of their products and services.

Huberman noted with the cost of living so high and other expenses such as property tax, things “really add up.”

In 2016, the Surrey Board of Trade surveyed their 2,400 members to find out how they feel about impending minimum wage increases.

“Regarding minimum wage, the results of the survey did support the Surrey Board of Trade’s current policy which is to have the minimum wage indexed to the Consumer Price Index, with predictable and consistent increases so that businesses can adjust without undue impact – especially on the small to medium sized employers,” said Huberman.

Nearly 70 per cent of SBOT respondents work for companies that employ 50 employees or less, the rest more, with 23 per cent in companies with over 100 employees.

Rounding out the survey’s questions was an opportunity for respondents to comment.

Always informative, comments from members ranged from those who “do not agree with this living wage concept, you want better wages, get more training,” to believing that a “living wage is a moral imperative. Structural poverty is not what society is about.”

Most fell in between and focused on how businesses would be able to manage.

Some of the impact comments that our members will experience include: everything will go up on a menu; need regular increases but cannot leap to $15 as it places too high of a burden on businesses; increases do not keep up with cost of living and businesses will pay later; and, several respondents commented that the increase will further fuel technological substitution.

-With a file from Katya Slepian