New Brunswick — “No one wants to work anymore!” is the typical outcry from businesses of all sizes who pay employees the amount they need to keep soul and body together and not a penny more.
“Why is it always us getting hit so hard by this economy?” asked local shop owner Barry O’Donnell, who pays his three employees $13 per hour — or, at least, that’s what he paid them before they all quit without warning.
“I treat people pretty well. I let them dress casually on Fridays. I allow them to drink instant coffee that we provide on-site. We even had a staff barbecue with some old hotdogs I found at the bottom of the freezer. And still they quit on me?! Where is the justice?”
With skyrocketing rent and home prices, soaring gas and grocery costs, it’s nearly impossible for anyone making minimum wage to survive.
According to the Human Development Council, the living wage in Bathurst in 2021 was $17.50. In Moncton it was $18.65. In Saint John it was $19.75. And in Fredericton, it cost people $21.20 to maintain a normal standard of living. These amounts were before the inflation and price-gouging that hit in 2022.
Corporations are making record-high profits, while decrying a lack of a workforce. Tim Hortons CEO Francine Lions said across the country, drive-thru staff aren’t as reliable as they used to be.
“The drive-thru any early morning is a busy spot, and we’ve had to let managers close the thing down some days because people aren’t showing up for their shifts. Or suddenly they’re just gone, without a trace. I simply don’t understand it,” Lions said. “We do know that more people are paying by card, so the workers aren’t getting the tips they used to. But still, they make minimum wage. If that’s not enough they can get another job or two that will work around our shifts — which admittedly change every week, so they’re tough to predict.
“But at the end of the day, what can be done? We can’t offer people a fortune for unskilled labour like this. We also don’t want to set a precedent — if we raised everyone’s salary, and then if inflation goes down, what then? We just have to keep paying them the higher amount?! No way.”
Job-seeker Taylor Noel said he quit his early-morning drive-thru job and applied at Costco, where the pay meets the living wage.
“Luckily they hired me on — benefits, enough to pay rent, and enough to buy food too!” he said, sounding as though he’d won the lottery. “There’s no labour shortage there, no help wanted signs, none of that. It’s weird, you know — all those problems really only seem to affect the under $15-per-hour spots.”