Government report could augur permanent poverty for lowest-paid workers

Minimum Wage workers will be stuck in poverty forever if the provincial government uses the current minimum wage level to “establish an appropriate baseline for future indexed increases,” as a document released today by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills and Labour indicates, says NDP Leader Earle McCurdy.

“Minimum wage workers, two-thirds of whom are women, subsist on pay that is well below the poverty line. We do need predictable indexing, but if you index to a poverty-level wage, you are guaranteeing a permanent low wage economy,” McCurdy said.

“Workers in this province have already lost a lot of purchasing power since 2010 with prices skyrocketing on even many of the most basic foods. The consultations, and this report, do not address that reality.”

McCurdy notes that the questions asked during any consultation determine the responses you get. In this case, he says, AESL asked whether stakeholders agreed indexing should happen, but not, where the starting point for indexing should be. “I never heard anyone ask, for example, ‘What level of income determines a relatively decent life?’” he said. “There’s no evident concern for minimum wage earners, some of the hardest-working people in our society.”

“The $15 an hour minimum wage is becoming a reality in other Canadian provinces and American cities. We could be a leader in economic fairness instead of continuing the race to the bottom, which this government seems intent on winning.”

Extensive academic studies of minimum wage are almost unanimous that an increase in the minimum wage has a positive overall impact on an economy.

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