New Brunswick

New Brunswick's minimum wage increase 'so small,' social justice group says

Abram Lutes, the provincial co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, said increase "doesn't make a substantial impact in people's lives."

5-cent increase is smaller than recent increases, and New Brunswick is still behind most other provinces

The minimum wage is set to increase by five cents on April 1. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

A social justice group isn't impressed by New Brunsick's coming bump in the minimum wage.

The minimum wage is set to increase by five cents on April 1, bringing the wage to $11.75 an hour from $11.70.

The increase is relatively small compared with recent increases, and New Brunswick is still behind almost all other provinces and territories.

In 2020, the minimum wage rose by $0.20, in 2019 and 2018 it rose by $0.25 and in 2017 it rose by $0.35.

The yearly increase, announced this week, is indexed to the consumer price index in New Brunswick, which saw a which saw a 0.22 per cent increase last year.

Abram Lutes, the provincial co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, said the additional five cents is far less that his group would like to see.

"The amount is so small that it begs the question why announce it in the first place," said Lutes.

Poverty line

Lutes said Statistics Canada says a yearly wage of $21,000 is necessary for an individual to stay above the poverty line.

The old minimum wage only let people earn about $20,400 a year — with a full-time job —  and the extra nickel an hour only adds $80 a year.

"You're essentially still about $450 short of the poverty line," said Lutes. 

"Regardless of this increase, a lot of minimum wage workers are going to be, you know, relying on the help of others, probably going into debt to afford essentials. … It doesn't make a substantial impact in people's lives."

Lutes said he can't speculate on why the province wouldn't want a larger increase for minimum wage workers.

"In general, this government has not been particularly friendly to workers or working people … and there's a whole slew of policies that have shown them to be hostile to working class issues."

Living wage

Lutes said the group once advocated for a $15 minimum wage, but even that is now outpaced by the cost of living in some places in New Brunswick.

"We're effectively having to play catchup with the cost of living, and that hurts and damages a lot of people's livelihoods and prospects," said Lutes.

"We should be committing to making sure that our minimum wage is a wage you can live on with some dignity as soon as possible."

Lutes said he understands that some businesses are struggling and may find a higher minimum wage difficult.

He suggests the government significantly raise the minimum wage but also support small businesses and non-profit organizations in the short term.

"We know that over time a higher minimum wage leads to higher consumption by ... lower-income people, which often translates into being good for business," said Lutes.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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