50-cent increase in N.L. minimum wage in 2017

If you work for the minimum legal wage in Newfoundland and Labrador, you'll be earning $11 an hour by October 2017.
It's 50 cents more an hour for workers in many sectors such as retail. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

If you work for the minimum legal wage in Newfoundland and Labrador, you'll be earning $11 an hour by October 2017.

In a news release Thursday, the government announced a 25-cent increase to $10.75 in April and another 25-cent increase to $11 in October.

Gerry Byrne, minister of advanced education, skills and labour, said the increase will bring the minimum wage in line with other Atlantic provinces.

Prior to today's announcement, the minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador had gone up by only 50 cents in the past six years and was the lowest in the country.

Byrne said the two increases next year will cover the increased cost of living since the Liberals took power, something that was part of the party's election platform.

Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Gerry Byrne said the two increases to the minimum wage in 2017 will ensure it keeps up with increases to the cost of living. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

According to Byrne, the government will now begin consulting about how future increases to the minimum wage should be decided. As an example, Byrne said the minimum wage could be tied to the consumer price index going forward.

In the mandate: Byrne

Byrne defended bringing in the 50-cent increase before doing public consultations.

"We did consult with the public," Byrne told reporters Thursday.

"The biggest consultation that occurred was an election campaign when we received a mandate, that we said very clearly we would tie minimum wage to an inflationary index."

Byrne added that he talked with labour and employer groups before deciding on next year's initial increase.

Increasing minimum wage is contained in the Liberal platform — but it wasn't part of a major announcement by Liberal leader Dwight Ball, nor was it a big part of the discussion during the campaign.

'Permanently...scraping around the poverty level'

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy says the 50-cent increase coming for the minimum wage isn't big enough. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

NDP Leader Earle McCurday called Thursday's announcement a step forward.

But he said government's small increases "guarantees that people will permanently be scraping around the poverty level."

"I don't think that's good for the economy in the long term and sure isn't good for the people who are earning minimum wage," he said.

McCurdy said government shouldn't just come up with a formula for deciding future increases — he wants a full review to ensure workers aren't below the poverty line.

The provincial Federation of Labour has called for a "living wage policy." Byrne said the government is looking at tying future increases to inflation, but consultations will be held first.

About six per cent of the population earns minimum wage, with just under half that number aged 15 to 24.