Minimum wage hike ‘very disturbing’ for business: MacLennan

CORNWALL – The president of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce is “very concerned” about an impending $15 an hour minimum wage.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Rory MacLennan, owner of Summerheights Golf Links, says the announcement Tuesday is very basic at this point and there’s not a lot of details and there’s legislation he still has to see.

“At a first glance, it’s very disturbing. It’s not just the minimum wage, it’s all the aspects that go with it – paid emergency day leaves and 48 hour cancellation of a shift that you’ve still got to pay them if you cancel a shift within 48 hours.”

MacLennan doesn’t know how he would handle that when it comes to his golf business. “How can I handle that with rain events? We’re changing our schedule here on a daily basis. It’s very difficult.”

The legislation includes the proposal to increase vacation pay from 4 per cent to 6 per cent.

“I’m in a seasonal business. When we pay our staff, we pay them their vacation pay on a weekly basis. Now, not only am I raising the minimum wage to $15 but I’m raising that another 2 per cent on vacation pay. It even mushrooms bigger than that because we have to match EI and CPP contributions based on their wage.”

He says, in many cases, the cost of the new minimum wage will trickle down to the consumer or result in cutbacks.

That’s going to raise my wages outside for just on the grounds by $1,500 a week. How do I get that from the consumer? I got to raise my green fee prices. So does that help anyone come and play golf?” MacLennan questioned. “So my gut reaction, well $1,500, I have to eliminate one job on the golf course and that’s just the golf course.”

The chamber president also has a lot of questions about how the rate of rolled out to different employees.

“Is this across the board? If I know that I’m walking into bar and the bartender is getting $15 an hour, I might as well keep my tip. Normally, we know that the bartenders are on a reduced minimum wage so that’s just another aspect,” he said.

MacLennan said the different associations need “to band together” and “get our voice together to make sure it’s heard even over at (MPP) Jim McDonell’s office.”

The Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce has been working with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and MacLennan says they will need to continue to lobby.

The chamber president doesn’t believe the assertion from the Social Development Council that people with a higher minimum wage will be buying more goods from local businesses.

“I don’t see that logic. As soon as the wages go up, I’m going to have to raise the price of my green fees. I got to come up with that money somewhere to pay my staff,” he said.

MacLennan reiterates there’s a lot of stuff in the legislation they haven’t seen yet. “There’s so many implications.”

As for reaction from the business community, MacLennan says “sadly” there was “very minimal feedback” when the chamber sent out a news release on minimum wage on May 18, prior to Tuesday’s announcement.

“Now that she’s (Premier Kathleen Wynne) got up and made her announcement, we’re getting feedback.”