Labor Shortage Mysteriously Only Affects Companies Paying Less Than Living Wage

New Brunswick — “No one wants to work anymore!” is the typical outcry of companies of all sizes paying employees the amount they need to keep body and soul together and not a penny more.

“Why is it always we hit so hard by this economy? asked local store owner Barry O’Donnell, who pays his three employees $13 an 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 old hot dogs I found in the bottom of the freezer. And they still abandoned me?! Where is the justice?”

With soaring rents and house prices, soaring gas and grocery prices, it’s nearly impossible for anyone earning minimum wage to survive.

According to 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 predated inflation and the price spike that hit in 2022.

Companies are making record profits, while lamenting the lack of manpower. Tim Hortons CEO Francine Lions says drive-thru staff across the country aren’t as reliable as they used to be.

“The early morning drive-thru is a busy place, and we’ve had to let managers shut the thing down on some days because people aren’t showing up for their shifts. Or suddenly they just left, without a trace. I just don’t understand it,” Lions said. “We know that more and more people are paying by card, so workers are no longer getting the tips they used to. But still, they earn 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 hard to predict.

“But in the end, what can be done? We cannot offer people a fortune for unskilled work like this. We also don’t want to set a precedent – if we raise everyone’s salary, then inflation goes down, then what? We just have to keep paying them the higher amount? ! Certainly not.”

Job seeker Taylor Noel said he quit his drive-thru job early in the morning and applied to Costco, where the salary is living wage.

“Fortunately, they hired me on – benefits, enough to pay the rent, and enough to buy food too! he said, sounding like he had won the lottery. “There are no labor shortages there, no signs asking for help, none of that. It’s weird, you know – all of these issues only really seem to affect spots under $15 an hour.

Photo used under Creative Commons by Andreas Klinke Johannsen on Flickr.

Michael A. Bynum