BOW VALLEY – A nine-person panel will begin reviewing Alberta's minimum wage policy for hospitality workers who serve alcohol as part of the provincial government's promise to review the policy.
The panel will first publish findings related to Albertan's recent minimum wage increase to $15 an hour before assessing whether a wage differential for hospitality workers who serve alcohol could lead to higher net incomes for employees.
"Alberta currently has the highest minimum wage in the country and too many hardworking Albertans are struggling to find work," said Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration.
"When the minimum wage was raised from $10.20 an hour to $15 per hour in three short years, the impact of this decision was not very well studied or understood."
He said the province will not reduce the general minimum wage for other sectors.
The panel will include a mix of economists, academics, industry experts, policy experts and servers in the hospitality industry. The panel is expected to complete its work by early next year.
"We're tasked with collecting, analyzing and publishing data on the effects of Alberta's 47 per cent minimum wage increase over four years and whether a wage differential for liqour servers might result in higher net incomes," said Joseph Marchand, associate professor of economics for the University of Alberta.
"The outcomes of interest will be primarily labour related, such as employment, hours worked and earnings. Distributional outcomes, such as inequality and poverty may also be evaluated."
He said the biggest challenge the panel will have is separating the policy effects from changes in labour demands and the overall economy.
The minister was vague when asked whether the panel will review employee deductions such as lodging and meals.
"There are existing studies that touch on that, perhaps it will make it into the report, but for the most part the focus is on looking at what the major impacts are in terms of jobs and employment and the other items Dr. Marchand mentioned."