by: Andrew Klukas
In 2016, the WCSA entered a Labour Market Partnership Agreement with the Province of BC to research and address the hiring challenges the industry is facing.
The partnership is the first of its kind for this industry and represents a growing recognition within government of our importance to the broader economy. Findings from this research program will be beneficial for c-store owners outside BC as well.
The first of a potential five-phase project was complete in 2017 and can be found at www.workbc.ca. It involved broad initial consultation where participants expressed their frustration regarding a wide range of contributing issues – such as the unavailability of affordable housing and transportation for employees in some locations, the inaccessibility of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the high costs of constant staff turnover, and the regulatory environment.
We are in the course of Phase 2, which involves collection and analysis of information that will serve as the basis for actions to address these challenges. As part of this process 200 employers and over 400 employees completed a comprehensive survey regarding employment and employment challenges in the industry. The final report should be available in May, but here are just a few preliminary findings:
- Employers primarily recruit through employee referrals and word of mouth and most do not target specific groups when recruiting. Those that do, tend to focus on college/university students and high school students.
- Approximately 70 per cent of those employers who have used the Temporary Foreign Worker Program report that they use it less frequently or have stopped using it altogether as a result of recent changes.
- Average turnover rates in the industry are approximately 30 per cent and are on the rise.
- Wages are the most important consideration when retaining and attracting employees. However, employers tend to under-estimate the importance of medical and other benefits.
- Employees at independent stores tend to be more positive about their jobs than those at chain stores.
Preliminary recommendations for subsequent phases of the project include:
- Enhance outreach to and increase recruitment of populations that are under-represented in the industry compared to relevant benchmarks or that are concentrated among certain employers, particularly retirees (55 years and older), women and Indigenous people (First Nation, Métis or Inuit).
- Provide industry-wide recruitment support that responds to the diverse needs of different store types.
- Help increase the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
- Improve the employee value proposition, particularly by enhancing employee benefits
- Develop a better understanding of skills gaps and develop training strategies that respond to these gaps.
- Address perceptions of employment in the industry and build the industry brand.
- Explore the potential of automation
Minimum wage survey results
A growing number of provinces are contemplating increases of the minimum wage to $15. Alberta is gradually increasing to $15 per hour by October 2018. BC has recently announced that it will do so by 2011.
Last June the WCSA surveyed retailers across Western Canada to determine how an increase to $15 per hour would impact their business and 162 respondents participated from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and the Yukon. Here are some of the results.
Most respondents represent independent stores and franchises with 10 or fewer employees. Almost all of them anticipated that an increase to $15 in the minimum wage would result in laying off staff and increasing prices and 68 per cent thought that the annual cost to their business would range from $10,000 – $50,000 a year.
If or when the minimum wage is increased to $15/hr, what do you anticipate the total cost would be to your organization each year?
$10,000 – $50,000: 104
$100,001 – $1 million: 29
Under $10,000: 21
Grand Total: 154
Seventy per cent of respondents (114) noted they would reduce hiring of students, making it more difficult for young people to gain valuable work experience.
Whether through layoffs or cancellation of planned hiring, how many fewer student employees (staff or FTE) do you expect an increased minimum wage would mean for your business in the year following the increase?
No change: 47
Grand Total: 161
Ninety per cent indicated they would have to raise prices to cover the cost of the higher minimum wage.
Do you anticipate a minimum wage increase to $15/hr would increase the price of your products, including staples like bread, milk, fresh produce, or prepared foods (salads, sandwiches, etc)?
Grand Total: 161
Many employers would like to pay their employees higher wages but the reality is that an increase for staff earning the lowest wages will have a domino affect – necessitating wage increases for all employees. In the meantime, many employers doubt that a bigger paycheque will result in more money for employees in the end since prices will go up across the board as a consequence of all businesses trying to afford the increased staffing costs.
While about a third of survey respondents still reported feeling optimistic about staying in business after such an increase, the other two-thirds were not so positive about their ability to survive