Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said raising the minimum wage comes at a difficult time for businesses. (Photo: 123RF)
Canadian minimum wage workers in six provinces are now seeing their salaries increase.
Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador raised the minimum wage on October 1.
This wave of wage increases comes with the cost of living rising, with annual inflation in Canada hitting a 40-year high in recent months.
Several provinces planned to raise additional wages over the coming months and years, and many aim to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — if they don’t already reach that high, as in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the Three Territories.
Workers’ groups say minimum wage increases are long overdue, but add that the long-running goal of setting a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour no longer goes far enough to address the affordability crisis.
“We’ve been asking for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for many years, which is not enough now,” said Canadian Labor Party leader Pia Prosk.
“It should be $20 an hour or more when you look at inflation and the cost of food and housing.”
Hayley Tatry, an organizer with the Nova Scotia Workers’ Justice Group, called the wage increase “absolutely necessary” but added that it was “not good enough”.
“We see people struggling all over the country,” she said. A small increase in salary will not help.
His organization was previously called “Fight for $15” (“Fight for $15”, in free translation). But over the past year and a half, management has come to realize that “$15 isn’t enough anymore,” she said.
Meanwhile, business groups say the minimum wage increases come at a difficult time as their members are still struggling to recover from pandemic lockdowns.
“Less than half of small businesses have returned to normal sales levels,” said Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“The average small business has taken on $160,000 in COVID-related debt and its costs have increased rapidly. Right now, it is really hard to manage any increase in costs for businesses.”
He warned that companies would likely respond to higher wages by raising prices or reducing working hours.
We know that governments are under pressure to raise the minimum wage […]But they have to find other ways to ease the burden on the business, Kelly said. We urge governments to consider freezing (working) premiums.”
The Canadian Conference Board’s director of economic forecasts, Ted Mallett, said minimum wage increases should be automatic to make them more predictable for workers and businesses.
Some groups have suggested indexing minimum wages with inflation, but Mallett believes that counties should instead consider setting minimum wages for adults at 50% of median income.
“Generally speaking, wages rise faster than inflation, which is why the standard of living rises. So we suggest indexation [le salaire minimum] On average income rather than high prices […]as this will increase the earning power over time.”
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