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Local businesses struggle to cope with increased minimum wage

By Rachel Bell  [1]

BELLEVILLE – The minimum wage was recently increased in Ontario from $11.60 to $14, creating difficulties for local business owners.

A local pharmacist, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his pharmacy be identified, says his business could not continue to be successful without making changes to accommodate the new higher hourly wage.

He has already laid off three people, he said.

“The second thing I’ve done, I started at the end of last year, is cut my business hours. So instead of Saturday opening 9-7, I’ve cut it to 9-5, and on Sunday instead of having the business open 10-6, I’ve cut it from 11-5.”

He also had to take away his employees’ health benefits [2], he said.

“I had a private health plan that I was paying for, for my staff. I was paying for everything, so they had benefits in a private plan, and I had to cancel that.”

The pharmacy has also increased its prices.

“I have to increase the sales in my drugstore $5,000 a week” to cover the increase in payroll costs, the pharmacist said. “Well, how can I do that? It’s a steady, slow business. The only way I can do that is to increase the price of the product to increase revenue. Let’s say I have a bottle of medicine that is $10. (With the minimum-wage increase of a little over 20 per cent), I’m going to increase that bottle over the counter to the consumer from $10 to $12.”

Jeffrey Camacho, manager at the Burger Revolution [3] restaurant in Belleville, also said he has had to increase his prices.

“In the new year with (the minimum wage) going up and our meat prices going up too, we had to increase. How we do it is by the menu (prices), and we’ve increased it a little just to accommodate minimum wage and food prices.”

Photo by Rachel Bell, QNet News

The restaurant has nine employees, and although Camacho was able to keep his employees’ hours the same, he said he feels that the minimum wage increased rather quickly.

“I don’t agree with how it went up so fast. It could have been a gradual increase – $11.60 to $14 was kind of hard for us to figure out.”

Even larger chains are being affected by the increase.

On the windows of their restaurants, Little Caesars has posted the following sign:

This chart shows the changes in minimum wage, and how quickly Ontario jumped from an hourly wage of $11.60 to $14.

With files from the Bank of Canada