Chamber of Commerce CEO Rory Ring and Derek Pearce, former Ward One candidate and current minimum wage worker, came into the ONNtv studio on Wednesday morning to talk about Bill 47 and minimum wage. Bill 47 was supposed to be passed Tuesday evening, but due to the amount of protestors, was postponed.
Although they come from different backgrounds, both Pearce and Ring agreed on various aspects of the Bill and it’s implications.
“Really what the position has been through the (Chamber) membership, right across Ontario, is that it’s too much, too fast, and that really it is a shock to the system to go within the space of 15 months from $11.60 or $12.65 to $15,” Ring said. “And it’s the rapid increase, especially within that period of October to January 1, to $14 that has been very very impactful.”
He went on to explain that, prior to this initiative by the Provincial Government, minimum wage was index to inflation to ensure that those wages were keeping up with the cost of living in Ontario.
Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage, Ring told ONNtv’s Lou-Anne Young, explaining that the majority of individuals working minimum wage jobs are between the ages of 15-24, living with their parents, and stats about single mothers working minimum wage jobs are less than two per cent of minimum wage workers.
“I just want to be very very clear that the business community has never said no to a $15 minimum wage, Ring said. “Rather, it’s said ‘let’s make sure we implement it in a very robust way that doesn’t have the potential impacts that we are actually starting to see.'”
The impacts he’s talking about include the way a business has to manage its employees, HR systems, accounting, and how they manage legislation and get that implemented into their business model as efficiently and effectively as possible, so it’s actually not impacting the employee, and operating hours. When minimum wage went up to $14, many businesses had to compensate for such a drastic change and did so by raising prices, cutting back employee hours or closing early in compensation of paying higher wages.
“Businesses like to plan three to five years out – they plan their capital expenditures, they plan their human resources, you know, and when you shock the system, you change the nature of their ability to plan,” Ring said.
“Being a minimum wage worker, obviously I’m happy that (minimum wage) went up,” Pearce said. “Do I think that it should’ve went up with inflation a little bit slower? Of course. Because as somebody who’s going to be starting a business in the coming months, I can see from a business perspective that if something goes up too fast, you’re going to have to make changes to your business to cope with that raise.”
“The challenge, too, is actually on the employee side,” Ring said. “Even though you’re making more money, you’re actually making larger contributions to EI, CPP, and the tax machine. And, actually it’s demonstrated through a number of studies that actual prosperity or the challenges of being able to make a living are actually reduced by increasing minimum wage, because there’s lots of lost hours of opportunity, because especially if you can’t pass on a lot of the cost to the consumer, you have to absorb them other ways.”
Ring also spoke about the community’s significant job gap in the Sault.
“There’s a lot of skilled employment available, I mean, Algoma Steel is over the next five years, replacing 700 aging individuals in that line of business,” Ring said. “And those are all skilled jobs, whether it’s an administrative job to somebody on a line, there’s a level of skill within that in training, given the nature of that business.”
This issue isn’t just seen in the steel industry. It’s also in the auto sales and food industries, some of whom have introduced automated ordering systems both in-store and on smartphone apps.
“If you’re not providing workforce into those areas, they will have to change their business models to meet consumer demand,” Ring explained. “And don’t forget, this is all driven by a consumer – whether that’s an industrial consumer or an individual consumer. This is about fulfilling market demand. So there’s a demand for Tim Horton’s coffee at a certain price point. And if that goes beyond that price point, they’ll go somewhere else. It’s like at Starbucks, if you want to get a $10 drink, there’s a $2 one at Tim Hortons. Those are consumer based choices. And those businesses exist to fulfill those demands.”
Pearce and Ring also spoke about issues such as job security, equal pay, job turnover and the impact the minimum wage hike has on the community as a whole.
“It’s not only businesses that are impacted by Bill 148 and Bill 47 and minimum wage – all cost of doing business for ARCH, the municipality, the City, Rotary and volunteers there, United Way, the library, you know. The cost of doing business is spread through the community and is not just business,” Ring said.
Watch the video above for the full interview.