Quebec's minimum wage to increase to $12 in May

Quebec's labour minister says it will be the largest wage increase in the province's history. The government estimates about 352,000 workers will benefit from the increase.

Rising salaries for minimum wage workers prompt mixed reactions from labour federations, business associations

Quebec's minimum wage hike will benefit more than 352,000 workers, the government says. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's minimum wage workers will see a bigger paycheque starting this spring after what will be the largest salary increase in the province's history.

The minimum wage will rise by 75 cents on May 1, bringing it to $12 per hour. 

The Quebec government made the announcement Wednesday morning, stating about 352,000 workers will benefit from the increase.

"This increase will improve the quality of life for low-income workers as well as promote incentive to work, raise the total amount of disposable income and contribute to lower the incidence of poverty," said Labour Minister Dominique Vien in a statement.

Workers who make the minimum wage with tips will also see a 35-cent increase, bringing the total up to $9.80 per hour.

The increase represents an annual increase of between $462 and $979 in disposable income for minimum wage workers, depending on the number of hours worked and their family situation, according to government calculations.

"The good economic performance of Quebec allows us to raise minimum wage in a substantial way,"  said Vien.

At $12, Quebec's minimum wage would rank third highest in the country, behind Alberta and Ontario.

Hike prompts mixed reaction

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) argues Quebec's minimum wage increase will be too much for small and medium businesses to handle. 

The hike could lead employers to cut elsewhere in order to absorb the additional costs, according to spokesperson Martine Hébert. Employers could scale back on hiring, raise their prices or cut the hours of current employees, similar to what happened in Ontario after the minimum wage was increased there.

"In the end, will low-income workers really come out of this as winners?" she said in a statement.

"There are better ways to fight poverty."

Finance Minister Carlos Leitão claims the next provincial budget will include help for small businesses.

"It will put in place measures that will make up for, in part, these issues of rising costs," he said. 

Protestors gathered earlier this week outside Tim Hortons locations following the decision by some franchises to cut employee benefits in response to Ontario's new minimum wage law.

The CSN, one of the province's largest labour federations, welcomed the increase but said it doesn't go far enough. At $12 per hour, Quebecers who make the minimum wage will still have a hard time making ends meet, said Jacques Letourneau, CSN president, in a statement.

"It isn't normal that people who are working full-time are relying on food banks."

The labour federation is instead pushing for the province to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in order to help low-income Quebecers get out of poverty.

Quebec fulfilling promise to hike wages

The increase comes shortly after Ontario's rate increased to $14 per hour from $11.60 on Jan. 1. The move prompted some franchises  to cut employee benefits to offset the hike.

Across Canada, the current minimum wage ranges from $10.85 in Nova Scotia to $14 in Ontario. 

In Quebec, minimum wage workers currently make $11.25. The last time the government raised the rate was in May 2017.
Demonstrators gathered in October 2016 to press for a $15 minimum hourly working wage in the province of Quebec and across Canada. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
The province announced plans last January to make four wage increases over the next four years, bringing the minimum wage up to $12.45 per hour by 2020.

Vien said the hike is in line with the government's plan to have the minimum wage equivalent to 50 per cent of the average provincial hourly wage by 2020, without exceeding that level.

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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