NDP-PEI Calls for $15 Minimum Wage
17 October 2018
Minimum Wage: “Fifteen is Fair”
NDP’s Byrne, Labour Leader, and Businessman join in call for increase
At a news conference today (17 October), Island New Democrat Leader Joe Byrne again called on the PEI Government to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, starting January 1st.
His position was backed by noted voices from both business and labour communities.
Lori MacKay, National Servicing Representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), spoke about principle: that workers in our society must have a fair shake in the distribution of wealth that results from their work. She noted the historical contribution of unions; for a century it has been organized labour which won reasonable earnings and decent working conditions for the people who do the work we depend on.
Campbell Webster, Island café entrepreneur and producer of Anne and Gilbert among other arts-and-entertainment products, debunked the myth that an increase in wages will hurt business, and consequently hurt employment. On the contrary, he affirmed, boosting the minimum wage to a liveable level is not just important for low-income workers; there is an impact on the standards for all wage-earners … and that actually benefits a business like his. When our minimum wage goes up, he has found, people buy more, and buy locally.
The NDP’s Joe Byrne referred to his presentation last month to the province’s Employment Standards Board, the arms-length agency which provides an annual review for Government concerning the minimum wage. His theme was “Fifteen for Fairness.” Byrne used a table showing how many weeks of work would be required at minimum wage to reach the federal Low-Income Cut-Off, that is, the minimum earnings for a decent standard of living. At PEI’s current minimum wage of $11.55/hr, a person has $22,522 for a year’s work. That’s more than $1500 below the Low-Income Cut-Off. $15 an hour would allow an income of a bit over $29,000 — which is barely enough to match the LICO.
PEI wages have been lowest in Canada — and are particularly vulnerable, says Byrne, because of our economy’s dependence on seasonal industries where many workers make minimum wage or close to it. With only limited unionization here, he told the Employment Standards Board, workers depend on Government to set a reasonable standard.
And far from hurting employment, it appears, a decent minimum wage is a generator which can boost workers’ welfare and the economy too, particularly small business. Well-paid workers buy more and better food, clothing, garage services, home repairs and improvements, movies, books and furniture.
Does a higher minimum wage force businesses to cut employment? Not according to a Globe and Mail report in August, whose headline read: “Ontario unemployment rate hits 18-year low, six months after minimum wage hike.” That may comes as a shock to conservative think-tank propagandists. But, says Joe Byrne, “That’s good news, and it confirms the belief of Island New Democrats that our province’s minimum wage should be boosted to at least $15.”
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