Alberta suspends minimum wage panel report without releasing recommendations

The Alberta government has set aside a report by an expert panel it appointed to examine the effects of a $15 minimum wage and possible lower wage for tipped servers.

The committee, chaired by Joseph Marchand, an economist from the University of Alberta, was appointed in August 2019 by Jason Copping, then Alberta’s labor minister.

The panel delivered its report in February 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the document was never made public.

“Our government has received and reviewed the work of the Minimum Wage Expert Panel. Due to the economic effects of COVID, changing labor markets and inflation, much of the report is no longer relevant,” said Roy Dallmann, press secretary to Labor Minister Kaycee. Madu, told CBC News in an email.

Alberta Labor does not intend to release the report and the provincial government will maintain the $15 minimum wage, Dallmann said.

The panel — which cost the provincial government about $24,492 — was a reaction to the former NDP government’s decision to raise the minimum wage in October 2019.

Groups representing restaurants and small businesses criticized the government at the time, suggesting it was moving too quickly and the initiative would cost jobs.

The United Conservative Party promised in its 2019 campaign platform that it would form a minimum wage expert panel if elected to office.

The panel would have two tasks: to study the potential effect of higher wages on the labor market and to determine whether food and alcohol servers would earn more money from tips if they were paid a lower hourly rate. .

Alberta had a lower minimum wage for servers until the former NDP government eliminated it in 2016.

It is unclear whether the expert panel report recommended reinstating the lower wage rate.

The panel member included Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Restaurants Canada, an organization that has advocated for a reduction in the minimum wage for servers.

Von Schellwitz told CBC News he couldn’t say what the panel recommended because he’s bound by a nondisclosure agreement.

He said, however, that lower wages allow restaurateurs to afford to give servers more hours, which allows those employees to earn more tips.

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the Alberta government must release the panel’s report.

“Albertans have a right to see the report. They paid for it,” she said, adding that the recommendations could provide insight into what a UCP government might try to implement if the party wins. next year’s provincial elections.

The government instituted a $13 minimum wage for young people in June 2019, as it believed that higher wages reduced youth employment rates.

The lower rate had no effect on the number of young people who found jobs, Notley said.

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