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Kamsack businesspersons favour minimum wage increase

Some business owners said prices might have to go up to absorb the extra cost.
Canadian Money
When approached by the Kamsack Times, most local businesspeople said they saw a need for a minimum wage increase. Some added they were concerned about the extra cost.

KAMSACK — Most managers of Kamsack small businesses who were asked last week about the provincial government’s plan to increase the minimum wage tended to agree with a need to have it increased.

On Oct. 1, the provincial minimum wage will increase from $11.81 to $13.00 per hour.

On Oct. 1, 2023, minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour and on Oct. 1, 2024, it will increase to $15 per hour. This will represent a 27 per cent increase to the minimum wage by 2024.

“Currently, anyone living on minimum wage would need a roommate,” said Shelley Andrychuk of P&J Plumbing. “It’s tough to see ends meet.”

“It has to increase,” said Dwayne Andreychuk, listing inflation including gas and food. “People were better off a year ago.

“We’ll have to do something with this world; it’s crazy,” he said, adding that he often finds it difficult to obtain products for his business.

“It’s a good thing and about time the minimum wage was increased,” said Chelsey Olson of the Kamsack Liquor Store. “I don’t think the increase is enough, considering the cost of food, fuel and interest rates.

“Now the price of gas has to go down,” she said.

“You need $18 to $20 just to cover the increase in the cost of living,” said Raymond Reibin of Kamtronics Sales. “The increase is a good start, but I don’t know if it’s enough.”

“It’s not enough if you own a vehicle or a house,” Shianne Stoppler added, explaining that she had purchased a house several years ago but no way could she do that with the minimum wage as it now is.

Explaining that Kamtronics staff are paid above minimum wage, Stoppler said that if employees are paid only the minimum they would tend not to work as hard; they wouldn’t have the incentive.

“Look at inflation, the cost of power and energy, everything is inflated,” Reibin said. Covering those costs would be difficult even at $16 an hour.

For $20 one could only buy enough fuel to fill a lawnmower, he said. How can one live on that?

It’s more realistic to raise the minimum wage to match inflation, he said, citing the fact that many things one wants to buy have doubled in price. “Nothing will be affordable anymore.”

Reibin said he’d like to see the government support small businesses with a program similar to summer student help which can be subsidized. Government should to help alleviate stress for small businesses and labour is a big cost for them.

If all the prices are being doubled, so should the minimum wage, he said.

Wayne Sas of Sas-Kam Sportsman said that he never pays only minimum wage at the store because he needs skilled workers.

But putting on his hat as chair of the Duck Mountain Ski Hill, Sas said the increase will be tough on the ski hill where much of the staff is paid the minimum.

Labour is a major cost at the ski hill, he said, adding that the hill will have to try to absorb some of that added cost or increase the cost of skiing.

“The cost of living is going up and we’ll have to raise our prices,” said Pheobe Koroluk of Pheobe’s Beauty Parlour. “We haven’t raised our prices in years, but everything costs more and we have to pay our bills.

“You can’t make it on minimum wage.”

“Mom and Pop stores can’t afford to pay the kids more than they make,” said Krystine Day, manager of the Fields store. “You can’t live on minimum wage and because labour is a big cost therefore the price of things will have to increase to accommodate those costs unless the government will help pay those increase costs.

“We feel better offering a better wage because then staff will stay.”

“It’s a vicious circle,” said Glen Sterzer of the Kamsack Home Hardware, adding that he’ll have to raise his prices.

“But the government likes the increase in wages because that’ll mean it will get more tax revenue,” he said. An employee gets paid more and is pushed to a higher tax bracket and the government benefits.

Between inflation, the pandemic and the minimum wage increase, half of the small businesses will go broke, he said, explaining how last year the cost to fill his car’s gas tank was half today’s cost. 

Frazer Will, Owner/Manager of Rawhides Restaurant in Stenen, said it’s a great move for those who earn minimum wage.

“With the price of everything increasing, it’s tougher for everyone. It’s just the way things have to move for people to be able to buy what they need to buy,” shared Will. “If someone has to drive 20 or 30 kilometres just to work, the fuel alone takes a big chunk out of the pie.”

Rawhides has anywhere from 20 to 30 employees, depending on the time of year. Younger staff start at minimum wage, while more experiences staff work their way well above that.

“For businesses like us, our prices will probably have to reflect that minimum wage increase, but we’ll have to cope. The prices paid have to be according to the cost of production,” explained Will. “Hopefully it makes us a bit more competitive in the job market when we’re hiring, but in the end we’ll probably be about the same spot we have been up till now in the labour market if everyone else increase their wages as well.”

“World events continue to put upward pressure on the cost of living in Saskatchewan and across Canada,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said in a release. “Our government is committed to ensuring life is affordable for our low-income residents by increasing the minimum wage over the next three years. This commitment to affordability will support Saskatchewan workers, and ensure Saskatchewan is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The increases to minimum wage reflect a market adjustment, rather than using the province’s traditional indexation formula. The indexation formula gives equal weight to changes to the Consumer Price Index and Average Hourly Wage for Saskatchewan. However, for this year as well as 2023 and 2024, the increase to minimum wage will reflect a move to more closely align workers’ salaries with changing market forces.

“As we continue to grow Saskatchewan, we want to attract quality investments and jobs so that all citizens can benefit. Making this change to the minimum wage is a step in that direction,” Morgan concluded.

In 2007 the minimum wage in the province was $7.95, and by 2024 there will have been a total increase to the rate of nearly 89 per cent.