Minimum wage up by 50 cents in N.L., but workers say a further increase is needed
Minimum wage workers will now earn $13.70 per hour
The minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 50 cents an hour on Saturday, but a worker and an advocate say more needs to be done.
The increase means minimum wage workers in the province now earn $13.70 per hour. The increase was announced in May, when the provincial government's minimum wage review committee released its final report.
Another increase — an 80-cent boost, raising the wage to $14.50 — is scheduled for April.
On Oct. 1, 2023, minimum wage will increase again to reach $15 per hour.
Newfoundland and Labrador's minimum wage sits about on par with the rest of Atlantic Canada, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
Prince Edward Island's minimum wage is also $13.70, while Nova Scotia's is $13.60 and New Brunswick's is $13.75.
'We need that increase now'
While the province plans to implement the $15 per hour wage next year, workers earning the minimum wage say they need the increase immediately.
Adam King-Duke is one such worker.
In an email to CBC News, Duke questioned how current wages are considered to be livable.
"If you are working at a minimum wage job with a 40-hour work week, as a single person, you are just grossing a little over $10 over the poverty line," said King-Duke.
"How can anyone get ahead in life?"
King-Duke pointed to the rising costs of housing, gas and food as obstacles that cannot be overcome on the current wage. In addition, he said even raising the wage to $15 per hour next year will come too late.
"We need that increase now. If the government wants its youth to stay in Newfoundland, they have to give them a hand. That starts with wages," King-Duke said.
He's calling on the provincial government to review the wage increase strategy and ask difficult questions.
"Government needs to ask themselves, 'Could I survive on this wage?'" said King-Duke. "I'm sure the answer would be 'no.'"
'Everyone is struggling to get by'
Sara Moriarity, digital organizer with the Workers' Action Network, says despite the increase, the cost of living remains too high to make a significant difference in the lives of minimum wage workers.
"Any increases to the minimum wage, something that does protect our workers, are welcomed," said Moriarity.
"That said, we're living amidst record inflation. The minimum wage originally was a policy intended to protect vulnerable people in the workforce, and right now those in the low-wage workforce are not protected by our current minimum wage."
Moriarity said that even next year's $15 per hour wage will not be enough to sustain workers, and suggests further action such as free public transportation and an improved pharmacare program would be beneficial in the offset of costs.
"Everyone is struggling to get by," she said.