Bill 148 begins to impact local businesses - Jan. 18, 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
For a lot of local business owners, belts have had to be tightened over in recent weeks as Bill 148 saw the price of doing business increase.
Bill 148, called the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, increased the minimum wage from $11.60, set in 2017, to $14 on Jan. 1. Another increase to $15 is set for Jan. 1, 2019.
Aside from the drastic minimum wage increase, the bill also includes provisions for sick days and guaranteed holidays for employees which will increase costs for employers.
Locally, businesses planned ahead for the increases, however that doesn’t mean the change won’t have an impact.
Kamran Zafar, owner of JR’s Family Restaurant and Gas Bar, said that while he has heard the government did its due diligence before making the change, he wonders if communities like Brussels were overlooked.
He said that bigger communities with more people may see an increase in a spending, however a village like Brussels that’s home to a large retirement community wouldn’t experience the same thing.
“Retired people aren’t going to see an increase in what they have,” he said. “They are going to have the same money today that they had last year.”
He said he has already seen an impact at his business after increasing his prices between three and four per cent. Customers who normally would order a coffee and a side choose between the two. Others are taking water with their breakfast instead of coffee.
“It’s been a big change,” he said, adding that he has an increase of $3,000 in expenses from the minimum wage increase alone over the next year. He said he isn’t sure how he’s going to cover that change.
“I don’t know who is benefitting from it,” he said. “I’m not, and my employees aren’t. The increased costs mean I have to work more hours to make ends meet and I may have to change my hours to address the costs.”
The Queens Bakery in Blyth posted a sign at the beginning of the year explaining that, due to the minimum wage increase alone, they were raising prices 15 per cent.
“It certainly is going to affect our business,” co-owner Anne Elliott said. “We’ve raised prices to accommodate the increase.”
Elliott says their staff are worth the increase, but to facilitate that increase prices needed to go up.
She said there could be a second increase in prices in the coming months when the business starts seeing the full impact of Bill 148 in the cost of its supplies.
“We will have to reassess then and possibly increase again because of that change,” she said.
The Blyth Festival also faced the implications of Bill 148 during budget time according to General Manager Rachael King.
“The only hourly staff we have are the front-of-house employees,” she said. “Everyone else is on salary.”
She said there are five employees and that, combined with the Festival increasing its season length this year, it doubled the cost of those five employees.
“We planned for it,” she said. “This is the reality and, as of Jan. 1, we knew we had to deal with it. We have to find the means to make it work because we need those people.”
King said the price was taken into account as part of a big-picture shift that the Festival faced when planning for this season.
Peter Gusso, who owns two Part II Bistro restaurants with his wife Sarah, said they anticipate Bill 148 will have more of an impact on their Blyth location than their recently-opened location in Goderich.
“It’s tough, that’s for sure,” Peter said. “The Blyth location is slower than the Goderich location has proven to be this time of year and having these increased costs doesn’t help.”
Gusso said that everything from the minimum wage to the paid sick days will impact the restaraunt’s bottom line, but he also pointed out that there will be a trickle-down effect as far as his taxes and North Huron taxpayers are concerned.
“We can see it at the North Huron level with the 14.7 per cent draft budget that was recently discussed,” he said. “No matter what number they land on, it’s going to be an increase and that has an impact on people on both sides of the restaurant business.”
Gusso said he will evaluate his food prices later in the year once the full impact of the bill is realized, but he guessed the changes would likely increase between 10 and 12 per cent.
“It’s going to hurt,” he said. “It’s going to affect a lot of people. There is no doubt about it.”