Five-hundred and thrity-five thousand Ontarians are getting a raise. Starting June first, anyone making minimum wage will be getting an additional 75 cents an hour. The Premier made the move official Thursday. And while some businesses say the increase could mean job losses, anti-poverty groups say the hike isn’t high enough.
Some anti-poverty and labour groups had been pushing the government to bring minimum wage up to at least 14 dollars per hour. But for some business organizations even 75 more cents is concerning.
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction Director Tom Cooper says Hamilton’s living wage is $14.95. So 75 more cents per hour isn’t enough to bring the city’s 30-thousand working poor out of poverty: “It’s a good first step, but lots more work needs to take place. It’s still 16% below the poverty line and we believe work should be a route out of poverty not a way to keep people there.”
In 2010, the Liberal government froze the minimum wage at 10.25. Anti-poverty groups had been pushing for an increase to 14 dollars to give workers enough to live on. That didn’t happend, and some small businesses are breathing a sigh of relief.
Hamilton Vacuum Supply Owner Bill Hodge says a 75 cent increase is manageable, but he still expects to feel the impact: “I probably would have been looking at layoffs. Profit margins are a lot less so we’re doing it on a lot less. So minimum wage for a lot of small businesses is really going to affect them.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’ll introduce legislation next month to tie all future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation. “What has happened for decades is that the minimum wage is increased or frozen on political ideology and that I don’t think that is a sustainable path.”
Under the legislation, a minimum wage increase will be announced by April 1st each year. And take effect Oct 1st. The Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association says they agree with tying minimum wage to the consumer price index. But this current increase will mean fewer jobs for young workers.
James Rilett is the CRFA Ontario Vice-President: “This will kick in on June 1st, right when people are hiring students for the summer and that’s where the cutbacks come. Usually when you have a large unplanned expense come you cut back particularly on your students.”
However, Cooper says raising wages can help business: “It reduces the level of employee turnover, it reduces sick time. A happy worker is a more productive worker.”
Once the minimum wage is raised to 11 dollars an hour in June, Ontario will be join Nunavut in having the highest minimum wage in the country.
Recommendations of an expert panel.
Video: News Now coverage of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement: