Federal minimum wage at $ 15 / hour? | Clashes between companies and unions in the Senate

(Ottawa) The president of Canada’s largest private sector association suggested that Parliament should raise the federal minimum hourly wage to $ 15 and give the mandate to determine future increases to an independent commission.


Jordan Press
The Canadian Press

In the opinion of Unifor Chairman Jerry Dias, this independent commission could bring together the key actors affected by the fluctuation of the minimum wage to monitor its true impact and distance itself from the influence of political discourse.

Jerry Dias made the comments Friday morning before a Senate committee tasked with analyzing some of the latest federal budget lines, including those related to minimum wages in industries under its jurisdiction.

If passed, Bill C-30 would increase the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour or equal to the rate in County Labor, whichever is higher. Thus, the increase in the minimum rate will be related to the rates of inflation.

Employers are against

However, if Jerry Dias argued that an increase in the minimum wage would not have a negative impact on the economy or employment, the Employers’ Association claims the opposite.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business believes that small and medium-sized businesses may not be able to absorb the costs of a salary increase while their incomes remain low. This could lead to a decrease in the employment of young workers or a reduction in the hours of existing workers.

Two separate consultations on working conditions that the liberal government has conducted since it took office in 2015 have recommended setting the minimum wage at $ 15. Each time, corporations and unions have clashed in defense of the same positions that we heard Friday before the Senate Committee.

This is why Unifor President proposes to establish an independent commission on minimum wages, similar to what exists in the United Kingdom. This committee will make recommendations, but the decision is up to the government. An operation that would “eliminate a large part of the myths and garbage that come out of this kind of debate.”

In 2017, a study by the Bank of Canada concluded that if the regional minimum wage was raised to this level, we would see a decrease in the number of hours worked by about 0.3%, but an overall increase in working income.

But that was before the pandemic.

The vice president for national affairs of the Canadian Association of Independent Business, Yasmine Geneti, says the government should look at this measure through the lens of the pandemic. Thus, he could see, according to him, how an increase in the minimum wage threatens firms that have accumulated debt to survive and the workforce that is looking for work.

We are not out of the pandemic yet, and now is not the time to increase business spending. “The government should focus first on reopening the economy and ensuring businesses survive the epidemic,” he said in his opening speech.

Senators have been told that 26,200 federal workers are currently earning less than $ 15 an hour.

Mainly in Quebec and Ontario

We are talking about service and ticket agents for air carriers, truck drivers, customer service personnel of banks or telecom companies. The vast majority of these jobs are in Quebec and Ontario.

The low number of affected workers is one of the reasons the Liberals rejected the minimum wage increase proposal when the NDP made it one of its promises in its 2015 election platform.

However, the epidemic caused the liberals to change their minds.

A representative for Employment and Social Development Canada, the department responsible for federal labor standards, told senators that the corporate bill would total 44.1 million in the first year of implementing the hourly minimum wage of $ 15.

The Senate committee was also informed that there could be side effects such as demands for a wage increase for workers whose hourly wages are just over $ 15. This may lead to additional costs for companies, but these potential impacts are difficult to estimate.

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