New Brunswick government rules out separate wage for servers

The provincial government has decided not to pursue a separate minimum wage for tip-earning workers.

Martine Coulombe, minister of Post Secondary Education, Training and Labour, announced the decision last Thursday, reminding people minimum wage is set to rise to $10 an hour on April 1. Minimum wage is $9.50 per hour now.

A press release says Coulombe decided not to pursue the separate wage after “consultations with stakeholders and members of the public.”

David Murrell, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick, said Coulombe made the right decision.

“The government’s plan not to have a tip-differential system is sound, since it is difficult to judge the differences in tips across restaurants and bars. Tips vary widely. And all people in the hospitality sector must get at least the minimum wage,” Murrell wrote in an email.

Had the proposal gone forward, everyone else earning minimum wage would have seen their hourly rate go up, but servers’ wages would have stayed the same because they earn tips.

The move was panned by some working in the service industry in New Brunswick, but Luc Erjavec, vice-president Atlantic of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association – a group that represents businesses in the country’s food services industry – said it was a good idea.

In a previous interview with The Aquinian, Erjavec said the tip differential system is needed to help solve the province’s economic problems. He also said it would help restaurant owners balance the books and provide more hours for servers.

While Murrell doesn’t like the idea of a tip differential system, he said there should be a lower minimum wage for people aged 15 to 17 “since they are legal dependents and a higher wage is not as crucial for these young people.

“For them, job experience is more important.”

The minimum wage increase to $10 an hour was supposed to come into effect last September, but the province postponed it to look into the tip differential system and to give small- and medium-sized businesses a chance to plan for the wage hike.

Increasing minimum wage is part of the province’s poverty reduction plan, which aims to cut deep income poverty by half by 2015.

Minimum wage has increased by $2.25 since the beginning of 2009, when it was just $7.75 an hour.

After April’s increase, New Brunswick will join Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labour, which all have or will have a $10 an hour minimum wage.

The hourly minimum is only higher in Nunavut and Ontario, which are set at $11 an hour and $10.25 an hour, respectively.

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