As election nears, Quebec workers press for increased minimum wage

Hundreds of workers and union members marched through the streets of Montreal on Saturday, calling for an increase to minimum wage and improved conditions for workers.

Time is ripe for higher wages given province-wide labour shortage, union leaders say

Workers gathered outside Montreal's Olympic Stadium for a May Day rally on Saturday. (Radio-Canada)

Hundreds of workers and union members marched through the streets of Montreal on Saturday, calling for an increase to minimum wage and improved conditions for workers.

Organizers say this year's May Day demonstration is vital, given the upcoming provincial election in October.

Daniel Boyer, president of the FTQ, Quebec's largest labour federation, wants the minimum wage hiked to $15. Workers making less than that can't keep up with the rising cost of living, he said. 

Quebec's minimum wage is set to increase to $12 on May 1, up $0.75.

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 the province.

Boyer said Quebec's strong economy and labour shortage makes now the perfect time to further increase wages.

"If you want to attract labour, you can not just offer $12 an hour and poor work conditions," he said.

"You have to focus on a reasonable workload and a work climate that will be reasonable for everyone."

Daniel Boyer is president of the FTQ, Quebec's largest union. (Radio-Canada)

Ontario's rate increased to $14 per hour from $11.60 on Jan. 1. 

Quebec unions also want politicians to hear their concerns when it comes to workers' rights and compensation.

They are highlighting the need for worker safety, saying it is unacceptable that more than 200 people died on the job last year.

"There's an election coming, and these parties need to take the side of workers," said Christian Daigle, head of the SFPQ, the union that represents public and parapublic service workers in the province.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson of Québec solidaire, attended the march. He said a $15 minimum wage and better work-family balance will be at the centre of his party's election campaign.

"We need a better minimum wage, but we also need to modernize our working laws," he said, pointing to a party proposal that would give workers the right to "disconnect" from work after leaving the office.


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