Yellowknife small business owner, workers react to N.W.T. minimum wage hike

Small business owner and two local employees react to a $13.46 minimum wage, set to begin in April in the Northwest Territories.

'I have no problem to pay this amount,' says Amana Abdelmagid, owner of Main Street Donair & Falafel

Amana Abdelmagid is the small business owner of Main Street Donair & Falafel in Yellowknife. She says the minimum wage hike isn't an issue for her business. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

Amana Abdelmagid has owned Main Street Donair & Falafel in Yellowknife for years.

She's a small business owner, with only one employee working for her at the moment.

Abdelmagid says the minimum wage increase — which will go up from $12.50 to $13.46 per hour in April — is not her main concern.

"If we find a worker [and] she's a really good worker, or he is … I have no problem to pay this amount," she said.

Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses announced the increase Wednesday. Moses said he believes the wage hike will help grow the N.W.T. economy.

Abdelmagid said she sees hiring employees as an opportunity to help them.

"Because now life is so expensive [in the North], I prefer to help those people to [find work]," said Abdelmagid.

Mel Migoni, right, and Kendal Tecsi, left, work at a Bootlegger clothing store in Yellowknife. (Marc WInkler/CBC)

How the workers see it

Kendall Tecsy works at apparel retailer Bootlegger in Yellowknife. She says when she first started at Bootlegger, she was working for minimum wage, and that was hard for her.

"I was on the line of making my bills and wanting extra money for anything else," said Tecsy, who doesn`t make minimum wage anymore.

Tecsy is glad minimum wage is going up but doesn't think it will make a big difference for people trying to get by.

The increase is still well below what is considered to be a living wage for the Northwest Territories, according to one study. In 2015, Alternatives North released a report stating workers in Yellowknife need to be paid $20 per hour in order to make ends meet. It increased to about $22 per hour in 2017.

About 700 people in the territory currently make minimum wage, according to Andy Bevan, assistant deputy minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

But the increase, albeit well under the estimated living wage, will still make a difference, says Mel Migoni, an employee at Bootlegger who started at minimum wage about four years ago.

"I think that's really, really amazing," she said. 

"Even though it doesn't sound like a lot of money, it definitely makes a huge difference for people and their income."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested Kendall Tescy is currently working for minimum wage. It also misspelled her name.
    Jan 11, 2018 1:12 PM CT

With files from Marc Winkler

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