Minimum wage hike gets mixed reviews among workers, business

One worker describes it as an attempt to buy their votes

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The minimum wage hike appears to be getting panned as ushering in maximum disruption to business — and not enough for workers who say they face continued struggle to get by.

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“It’s nice but it’s just not good enough,” said Christine Ilott, who works three jobs, all in live theatre.

“I appreciate the 65-cents-an-hour raise but it’s not enough,” added Ilott, who is among the 760,000 Ontario workers who will see the bump in pay in the new year.

“Definitely it’s going to be a struggle still. I’m still going to be struggling to pay my bills, pay my rent,” she said.

She is not alone in facing a struggle.

“It was surprise and shock. We didn’t see it coming at all” said Julie Kwiecinski of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“You couldn’t have picked a worse time to not only announce this but to implement it,” she said.

CFIB says small businesses already face a typically slow month of January, are bracing for higher Canada Pension Plan costs, higher insurance rates, and a loss of eviction protection.

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Many of them are still financially mauled by the pandemic.

“They are already hurt going into January. So you’ve got January already being the slowest month usually for many retailers,” Kwiecinski said.

A major worry for restaurants: Swallowing January’s 20 percent increase in wages for liquor servers, as business will likely slow.

“It’s going to be a huge hit to restaurants’ bottom line,” said James Rilett of Restaurants Canada. “The loss of the server minimum wage is going to put or whole industry into a period of trying to adjust.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce also chimed in.

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“Many businesses are still grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including cash-flow constraints and the increased cost of doing business; this is no time to add to their costs,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

“We are disappointed in the lack of consultation on such a significant policy shift and departure from the scheduled wage increases,” he added.

Ilott said she found it odd timing the Tories nixed a hike to minimum wage three years ago, but have now changed their tune.

“It is not lost on me that we are eight months from an election,” she said. “It’s not lost on me that (Premier Doug Ford) is trying to buy our votes.”

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