Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's $1 minimum wage hike comes under fire

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia will increase by a dollar on April 1. That will make the wage $12.55 per hour. But the move is being criticized by advocates for higher wages and businesses who say the increase is too steep.

Province will have the second-highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia will go up by a dollar on April 1. (CBC)

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia will increase by a dollar on April 1.

While it might look like good news for some, the increase has prompted criticism from people fighting for better wages as well as the business community.

An opposition politician and an advocacy group say the increase isn't enough, while some businesses say the wage jump is too much too fast. 

The dollar increase will bring the minimum wage to $12.55 per hour.

This is the largest increase to the minimum wage the province has made in a decade. It will give Nova Scotia the second-highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada, according to a media release from the province.

Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis said the increase will put almost $2,000 into the pockets of full-time employees every year.

The minimum wage increase is a step in the right direction, said NDP leader Gary Burrill, however, it's a long road to get wages where they need to be. 

"What we need is $15," said Burrill.

The advocacy group Fight for $15 and Fairness lobbies for a $15 minimum wage. 

In a news release, the group said the increase to $12.55 is something to celebrate, but it's still not enough to lift tens of thousands of Nova Scotians above the poverty line.

But Restaurants Canada, a national non-profit association that looks to advance the food service industry, expected a 55-cent increase each year over three years.

"That makes it really tough on business to stray that far from what they had committed to do last year," said Luc Erjavec, the groups's Atlantic vice-president.

"It actually adds a level of mistrust. Will we believe them next time they say something? It's unfair to put us in this position and to give us such short notice for such a substantial increase."   

He said the increase is going to squeeze small businesses who already have tight profit margins. 

"This is going to make it that much more difficult to survive," he said. 

Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis said this increase will put almost $2,000 into the pockets of full-time employees every year.   (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The minimum wage in the province has been creeping up since 2013 with 10 or 15 cent increases each year until 2019, when the province hiked the minimum wage by 55 cents to $11.55 per hour.

Premier Stephen McNeil said in the release that the move will help all Nova Scotians benefit from the province's economic growth and that the government is committed to making changes that benefit both workers and businesses. 

Those changes include altering wage regulations by eliminating the minimum wage system for inexperienced workers and discarding the partial-hour rule. 

Changes benefit inexperienced workers

The system for inexperienced workers allowed employers to pay less than minimum wage under certain circumstances. Under the new rules, those workers will also be entitled to the $12.55 wage.

The partial-hour rule required businesses to round up the time an employee worked to the nearest half hour or full hour.

With the changes to the partial-hour rule, it is possible some workers will be paid less, according to Kousoulis. But some will get more, he said, because some employers are unable to implement the rule.

"We can find one-off cases where an employee will get less and we can find … multiple cases where employees will get more," he said.

Businesses have been lobbying to remove the partial-hour rule to reduce costs, according to the province.