December 10, 2023

The hourly compensation needed to maintain a “modest standard of living” is on the rise in Lethbridge.

Taking into account recent provincial and federal affordability measures, the Alberta Living Wage Network (ALWN) said 2023’s Lethbridge wage sits at $20.60, up 30 cents from last year.

Jaci Zalesak with the Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta United Way said it’s a relatively positive and small increase, but it’s still $5 above Alberta’s minimum wage.

“Generally, when you’re making minimum wage, often those people that are working at $15 an hour may have to take on more than one job to be able to afford the cost of living, or have to share accommodation with several other people to be able to afford their basic needs,” Zalesak said.

“That certainly puts an impact on what they’re able to accomplish with family life and support living within the community, so it makes it harder to pay those bills when you’re only making $15 an hour.”

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To combat the rising cost of living, ALWN and the Social Health and Equity Network of Lethbridge and Area (SHENLA) are encouraging businesses to commit to becoming living wage employers.

SHENLA spokesperson Sharon Yanicki said that government policies have provided some benefits in helping families, but there’s more that can be done.

“We see more impact of the rising cost on lone parent families and single individuals, so we would like to see more communities and businesses in the community, and the City of Lethbridge consider implementing a living wage,” said Yanicki.

Yanicki says there are only two local businesses that are certified as living wage employers in Lethbridge, FWBA Architects being one of them.

FWBA Architects interior design lead Theresa Yauck said they are proud to support their employees.

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“Because our firm has locations in three different communities, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, we use the Alberta Living Wage as a metric in determining our total compensation for our employees,” Yauck said.

“For example, Calgary’s living wage is 15 per cent higher than Lethbridge’s, Medicine Hat has an 18 per cent lower living wage than Lethbridge. So when we look at those factors, it helps us ensure that we’re delivering equity among compensation packages to our employees, based on the communities that they are working in.”

Alberta’s minimum wage has remained at $15 an hour since 2018. This year, several provinces adjusted their wages to accommodate inflation.

In a prepared statement from the office of the Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade Matt Jones, a spokesperson said the province acknowledges the inflationary pressures being felt by Albertans. The statement also said there are “potential consequences” of changing the minimum wage that could affect businesses and the rest of the province.

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A statement from a spokesperson from the Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade, Matt Jones says:

“We are actively assessing the appropriateness of the current wage structure,” the statement reads.

The spokesperson also said the province’s “primary focus remains on identifying ways to assist Albertans in coping with the recent shifts in the cost of living.”

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