Lack of minimum wage hike a $400 hit to Manitoba families, say advocates
Progressive Conservatives plan to keep minimum wage at $11/hour
Manitoba's minimum wage will not rise this year, despite several other provinces making an increase. The Progressive Conservative government will keep the rate set at $11 per hour.
The decision comes amid calls from dozens of unions and social advocacy groups to hike the rate, to meet an increase in the cost of living. Oct. 1 is traditionally the date when provinces set their minimum wages.
Kevin Rebeck of the Manitoba Federation of Labour says no increase will set minimum wage-earners back $400 a year.
"Being able to afford their bus pass and groceries for their kids to pack lunches is something that comes down to the nickle and knowing the cost of living moves up $400 and they are not keeping pace with that; that's a significant thing when you are living it," Rebeck said.
Manitoba had several years of increases in the wage rate under the NDP.
Premier Brian Pallister confirmed Wednesday his government will maintain the current wage rate.
The Tories have started a number of initiatives that will put more money into the hands of low-income earners, Pallister said, such as: raising the personal basic tax exemption, restoring the Rent Assist program and indexing tax brackets as ways to boost incomes.
"Each of these steps will help the working poor in our province and are positive steps to assisting them," Pallister said.
Rate hikes hurt business: CFIB
Those measures are well received by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Jonathan Alward, the provincial director of the CFIB, says when the minimum wage rises his members cut back on hires and must consider price increases.
"We think there are more effective, better ways of putting money in the pockets of low-income earners," Alward said.
The CFIB supports the PC government's tax changes and wants to see initiatives for training workers to help them move past minimum wage jobs.
Alward points to Alberta where the NDP government there plans to incrementally raise the rate to $15.
"Businesses say it's going to have a huge negative impact; 26 per cent of businesses said that they will need to cut down the number of employees," Alward said.
Pallister sees new way to set minimum wage
Pallister says the previous NDP government never tried to find a middle ground and wants to work with both small business and labour to set minimum rates.
"They never were able to develop a consensus around action that both employees and employers could agree with and I'd like to see that happen and I want to work with organized labour, but I am also very interested in working with small business people as well," Pallister said.
Rebeck of the Manitoba Federation of Labour says there is a misconception of who is a minimum wage earner.
"The reality is [they] are largely adult women. Sixty per cent are female and over 65 per cent are over the age of 20. So this is your friends, your neighbours, these are people who live in your community who are trying to make ends meet, and struggling," Rebeck said.
Rebeck is also critical of the PC government's decision to raise the personal exemption rate instead of increase the minimum wage. He says that will cost the province $72 million in tax income and a better move would be to give wage hike to keep up with inflation.