August 19th, 2019

Alberta government strikes panel to advise on wage cut for alcohol servers


By The Canadian Press on August 15, 2019.

Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney speaks to media during the Western Premiers' conference in Edmonton on Thursday, June 27, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – A provincial panel will explore whether cutting the minimum wage for Alberta’s alcohol servers could give them more working hours and boost their overall income with more tips.

Labour Minister Jason Copping says the panel of academics, industry leaders and workers is to report back in the new year.

The panel will also consolidate existing studies on the effects of a rise in minimum wage under Alberta’s former NDP government.

Under the NDP, the minimum wage rose from $10.20 to the current rate of $15 an hour, the highest in Canada, and a reduced rate for alcohol servers was eliminated.

Premier Jason Kenney’s new United Conservative government cut the minimum wage from $15 an hour to $13 for those under 18, saying the lower rate will make it easier for employers to hire and reduce Alberta’s youth unemployment rate.

Kenney also said during the spring election campaign that he alcohol servers who told him the wage increase forced employers to cut their hours and that a wage cut would be more than offset by higher tip income from more hours worked.

“The minimum wage expert panel is an important part of the government’s common-sense plan to not only get Albertans working again but also to prove to investors that Alberta is indeed open for business,” Copping told a news conference in Calgary on Thursday.

The panel is headed by Joseph Marchand, associate professor of economics at the University of Alberta.

When the NDP took over in 2015, the liquor server rate was $9.20 an hour, one dollar less than the minimum wage.

The rationale was that servers get the balance back in tips.

The NDP eliminated the differential in 2016, putting alcohol servers on par with the rest of minimum wage earners.

Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia currently have reduced wages for servers.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley brought the wage hikes in as premier. She said the raises gave workers a living wage and that the money would be reinvested in the economy.

Kenney has said the wage hike was one of a number of NDP missteps that worsened the state of its Alberta’s struggling oil and gas-based economy.

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