Boost to Saskatchewan's minimum wage faces criticism

Group claims move comes with no consultation, removes 'predictable and sustainable' increases

Boost to Saskatchewan's minimum wage faces criticism

The Saskatchewan government has just announced it is increasing its provincial minimum wage, but some groups are not happy with the development.

The base salary for workers will rise to $13 per hour starting Oct. 1, 2022, from the current $11.81 per hour. Saskatchewan is also looking to up the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 — an 89-per-cent increase from the 2007 minimum wage of $7.95.

However, Restaurants Canada says the announcement comes at the worst time for Saskatchewan restaurants.

“Operators are already struggling to survive, grappling with increased debt from the pandemic, as well as rising costs, and menu inflation pressure, all while trying to bring back price-sensitive guests to recover and rebuild from the pandemic,” says Mark von Schellwitz, vice president for Western Canada at Restaurants Canada.

Restaurants Canada is also not pleased that the government has moved away from the province’s traditional indexation formula in coming up with the new minimum wage.

The province’s traditional indexation formula gives equal weight to changes to the consumer price index (CPI) and average hourly wage for Saskatchewan, according to the government.

The new salary reflects a market adjustment and more closely aligns workers’ salaries with changing market forces, says the government.

This, however, comes without consultation and “removes predictable and sustainable minimum wage increases at a time when Saskatchewan’s hospitality businesses can least afford,” according to Restaurants Canada.

Ontario’s minimum wage will also increase to $15.50 per hour starting Oct. 1, 2022.

The wage boost will make it even more difficult to hire back employees, says von Schellwitz.

“It will also result in fewer employment opportunities and less work hours for service staff.”

‘Artificially low’

However, Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western regional director, says the wage is ”artificially low.”

"Something is wrong when working full-time for the minimum wage in Saskatchewan doesn't get you above the poverty line."

Unifor re-issued its call for the Saskatchewan government to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour to match neighbouring Alberta.

"When combined with stronger employment standards and high-quality social services, an increase to the minimum wage can help improve the standard of living in Saskatchewan," says McGarrigle.

Saskatchewan has been a laggard when it comes to raising wages, according to the union.

“B.C., Ontario and even Alberta have moved to raise wages beyond $15 an hour. The sky did not fall. In fact, people had more money to spend in their communities and support local businesses.”

Last fall, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour called Saskatchewan’s minimum wage increase to $11.81 an “embarrassment” and an insult to front-line workers.

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