British Columbia

Labour Day rally seeks minimum wage hike in B.C.

Several hundred people turned up at a Labour Day rally in downtown Vancouver Monday, calling on the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour.
The B.C. Federation of Labour says Premier Gordon Campbell is ignoring British Columbians' request for an increase in the minimum wage. ((CBC))

Several hundred people turned up at a Labour Day rally in downtown Vancouver Monday, calling on the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour.

The B.C. Federation of Labour, which mounted the rally, said more than 100,000 British Columbians are earning $8 an hour, the current minimum wage, which hasn't changed since it was set seven years ago.

Federation president Jim Sinclair said the $8 hourly wage doesn't reflect the reality of rising gas, transportation and food prices.

"Right now there are only two provinces [P.E.I. and N.B.] that are lower than us, at $7.75, and for the last couple of years, we've been the lowest in real purchasing power," Sinclair said. "In other words, that $7.75 in the Maritimes goes a lot farther than that $8 in Vancouver."

B.C. Labour Minister Ian Black said the current minimum wage is necessary to keep the province competitive, adding the federation is exaggerating people's sense of despair.

"Very few people in this province are making $8 an hour," Black said Monday.

"What we are seeing right now is an average wage of over $21.26 per hour. The average hourly wage of youth is $13.19. and the youth comprises the vast majority of people who make minimum wage in the first place."

A $2-increase in the B.C. minimum wage would be damaging to the labour market, Black said.

"It could immediately eliminate 30,000 to 40,000 low-wage jobs in this province, affecting some of the most vulnerable families," he said.

"It will drive incredible inflation for our small-business community, who employ most of the people in this province."

Monday's rally included B.C. truck operators, who protested the high cost of fuel by slowly driving their rigs from the suburban community of Surrey to downtown Vancouver.

Spokesman Paul Uppal said some companies in the industry are reluctant to pay a fuel surcharge to offset the rising cost of fuel. Truckers want to see the fuel surcharge better administered, he said.

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