Push for $15 minimum wage lies ahead, says new president of Sask. Federation of Labour

The newest president for Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says she’s gearing up for the battles ahead, fighting for public sectors and lobbying for a $15 per hour minimum wage among them.

Lori Johb takes over from long-serving former president Larry Hubich

Lori Johb, former secretary-treasurer for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, has been acclaimed as the new president for the organization. (Submitted by Lori Johb)

The newest president for Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says she's gearing up for the battles ahead, fighting for public sectors and lobbying for a $15 per hour minimum wage among them.

"There's going to be some challenges, I'm sure," said Lori Johb, who was acclaimed at the federation's annual convention on Saturday. "But right now, I'm pretty excited."

Johb previously served as secretary-treasurer for the organization and worked alongside former president Larry Hubich.

"He always shows such strength. He fought for workers like nobody I've ever met before," said Johb of Hubich, adding her colleague was well-deserving of his retirement, after 16 years of serving as president.

In a major victory, Hubich led the federation in a fight against essential services legislation introduced by the Saskatchewan Party in 2007 in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The court struck down the law that would have prevented public-sector employees from striking as unconstitutional.

Larry Hubich served as the president for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour for 16 years. (CBC)

Now, as she looks ahead, Johb says the labour movement has a new role to play on behalf of Saskatchewan workers, for instance, when it comes to pushing for a boost to minimum wages to $15 an hour.   

"We are really, really way, way far below where we should be in that regard," she said of Saskatchewan's current minimum wage, at $11.06 per hour.

"We know that people that are low wage earners spend every nickel they have in their communities and the local businesses," she said, explaining putting more money in their wallets would in turn help drive the economy forward.

Her other goals are for the federation to expand its reconciliation efforts, and to support public sector workers who are struggling at bargaining tables. 

"There's just hurdles that are really quite insurmountable," she said, pointing to the government's attempt to achieve savings by looking to public sector wage reductions. "We need to find a way to work together and push back because we can't be letting this happen. We can't be accepting rollbacks."

But this weekend, as Johb headed back home to Leroy, Sask., she said her immediate plans are just to take a few days to regroup, before turning attention to the work that lies ahead.

"I think that our labour movement in our province is in pretty good hands. And I'm really excited for the prospects."