Federation of Labour president calls decision ‘pathetic’
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
An increase to BC’s minimum wage from $10.25 to $10.45 was announced on March 12.
The 20-cent change will be implemented beginning in September, and is the first of a new initiative that will see increases to minimum wage each year starting September 2016. The idea behind the yearly wage raise is to adjust minimum wage accordingly with the rate of inflation.
This is the first time minimum wage has been changed in BC since May 1, 2012, when minimum wage was raised from $9.50 to the current $10.25.
Increases to BC’s minimum wage have occurred several times since 2011, when the set $8 per hour—the lowest in Canada at the time—was gradually improved from its 10-year freeze.
Many have criticized the wage raise, with the president of BC’s Federation of Labour, Irene Lanzinger, telling CBC, “I think the government’s announcement was pathetic and inadequate. It won’t deal with the hundreds of thousands of people who work full-time and live in poverty.”
There have been calls for BC’s minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour, following Seattle’s decision to implement the raise beginning April 1. A “Fight for $15” movement, which has chapters throughout North America, began a petition, which as of March 14 has gained nearly 23,000 signatures out of a goal of 30,000 for BC alone.
Concerns over the 20-cent increase have primarily focussed on the number not being high enough to meet minimum living costs in the province. In a statement made in November 2014, Lanzinger said, “We are seeing a growing gap between rich and poor and a lot of poverty in British Columbia.
“We lead the country in poverty and that is terrible and so the minimum wage will counteract that to some degree if we raise it to $15.”
Premier Christy Clark has addressed the concept of a $15-minimum wage, on March 11 stating publicly that the increase would be detrimental to smaller business throughout BC.
On March 12, the Shift, a Seattle-based online news website, published an article stating that a number of Seattle-based restaurants had recently closed their doors due to not being able to pay staff $15 per hour while also keeping their businesses open. The Shift shared the Washington Policy Center’s statement that “dozens” of staff have since lost work as a result of the upcoming wage increase.
In Canada, Ontario and Nunavut currently have the highest minimum wages, set at $11 per hour. The Northwest Territories currently has the lowest minimum wage at $10 per hour, but that will be increasing to $12.50 in June.