Over 110 Alberta businesses pledge to maintain $15 minimum wage as youth wage cut takes effect Wednesday

Katy Ingraham, owner of the neighbourhood pub Cartago, is a vocal advocate of paying all employees a living wage. ED KAISER / POSTMEDIA

A growing coalition of businesses in Alberta have pledged not to cut youth employees’ pay when UCP government changes to the minimum wage for youth take effect on Wednesday.

The UCP-championed changes will make it legal for employers to pay $13 per hour to students under 18, compared with $15 for non-students and adults. The government has said the lower rate is designed to address an unemployment problem among young Albertans by giving businesses a greater incentive to hire youth.

But the more than 110 businesses — from Costco to small auto shops and restaurants — have signed onto Alberta15, a public online pledge to maintain a $15 minimum wage for all employees, rejecting the notion that youth should be paid less for the same work.

“Everybody deserves a liveable wage,” said Andrew Cowan, co-owner of restaurant Northern Chicken, on June 10. “And you can’t discriminate based on age or anything like that.”

Brian MacKay built the online Alberta15 platform — where consumers can view a list of companies who have signed onto the pledge and employees can anonymously report violations — after a Reddit post about the UCP decision in late May “struck a chord.” Having moved out at age 16, MacKay said he knows what it’s like to be a young employee working to pay his own bills.

“I was one of those kids working in a restaurant (and) I know how hard it is to get out of that hole,” said McKay, who owns the Edmonton-based web design company Tooq. “It’s really tough to get an education when you’re barely scraping by.”

Katy Ingraham, co-owner of Cartago restaurant in Edmonton, said she supports the pledge and sees a living wage as “integral” to reducing poverty. She also noted that $15 per hour is just the beginning, as a recent study sad it is not even a living wage in Edmonton or Calgary.

“We’re going to keep being vocal and letting everyone know that (wage cuts) aren’t something we support,” she said. MORE


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