Manitoba workers, union president say it's time for a minimum wage increase
People working full-time shouldn't live in poverty, labour federation president says
With Manitoba set to introduce a bill as early as Monday that could raise its minimum wage, workers in the province say it's about time.
The Prairie province has some of the lowest-paid workers in Canada.
And with Saskatchewan planning to raise its minimum wage to $13 an hour in October, Manitoba is poised to have the lowest minimum wage in the country, at $11.95 an hour.
It's a struggle for minimum wage workers like Fernando and Winnie Miranda in Winnipeg, who have three kids to look after. With the rising cost of food, the two are often working overtime just to make ends meet.
"It's not enough," Fernando said on Saturday. "The price of everything has gone up and the money in the pocket is not enough."
Earlier this month, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson brushed aside questions of raising the minimum wage, saying many employers have already been voluntarily increasing wages to cope with the ongoing labour shortage. It's set to raise by 40 cents in October, to $12.35.
But she changed her tune this week when she said there's room to improve Manitoba's minimum wage.
"Even though we have indexed our minimum wage to inflation, I think we have somewhat gotten behind where other provinces have gone and so we want to ensure that we are not falling behind," Stefanson told reporters after a meeting of the Western Premiers' Conference in Regina on Friday.
Winnipeg garden store worker Dylan Thiessen said he makes more than minimum wage, but that isn't the case for many of his coworkers who are stuck at the minimum wage.
"That's what they're stuck with," he said. "I think it should go off of purely skill and abilities, and work ethic, not just one set wage for the province."
Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck said it would be embarrassing if Manitoba does end up having the lowest minimum wage in Canada this fall, especially as other Conservative governments — like those in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick — are bringing theirs up.
"They know that to keep their economy moving, they can't have poverty-level wages," Rebeck said, adding that Manitoba workers need to make at least $16 an hour — what's known as a living wage — to climb out of poverty.
"Our government needs to realize the same thing: that when you work full-time, you should be able to make the basic needs and cover them. And that only happens if we get to a living wage."
With files from Emily Brass