EDMONTON—“The announcement today that the minimum wage will rise from $8.00 to $8.40 per hour will provide some help for low-income Albertans, but we need to put this increase in the context of sky rocketing costs,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “If you are currently drowning under rising costs, then this increase will just help you to continue to drown below the surface.”
A person working full time (40 hours/week 52 weeks/year) will receive an extra $69 per month from the increase in minimum wage. According to the CMHC latest study, the average one bedroom apartment increase went from $666 to $729 in Edmonton and $780 to $849 (October 2006 – October, 2007) in Calgary, an increase equivalent to the total wage increase.
"With Alberta’s sky rocketing rents, low-income workers will be no further ahead with this increase, let along adding in all the additional costs for utilities, food, transportation and other living expenses,” said Moore-Kilgannon.
The Alberta minimum wage increases each April 1st according to the Average Weekly Earnings Index calculated by Statistics Canada, the same index that is used to increase MLA salaries each year. By comparison, the Premier will get a salary increase of $7,050 and cabinet ministers will receive an increase of $6139 this year.
“While the idea of indexing the minimum wage is good, the real problem is that they set the minimum wage too low in the first place,” said Moore-Kilgannon. “Ontario has pledged to increase their minimum wage to $10/hour by 2010. At this rate, Alberta’s minimum wage will not reach $10/hour until 2012."
Public Interest Alberta is advocating for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy and living wage policies that will ensure that all people who are working full time are able to earn a safe and healthy standard of living. In PIA recently publicized Statistics Canada data showing that 21.9 % of all employed workers in Alberta earned less that $12/hour (April 2007).
“Increasing the minimum wage is very important for all low-wage workers, as there is usually a ripple effect up for workers earning just above the minimum,” explained Moore-Kilgannon. “Our research shows that 52% of these workers earning less than $12/hour were over the age of 24, and 64% of them were women.”
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