August 29, 2000
With Labour Day just around the corner, the provincial government's timing in announcing a minimum wage increase couldn't be better, said Marie Mentz, president of the North Okanagan Labour Council.
"The minimum wage increase announced Tuesday is a victory for working people," said Mentz. "A livable wage is long overdue for working people in B.C."
Contrary to the business position, young people are not the only ones working at minimum wage jobs. More and more families are working two and three jobs at minimum wage just to make ends meet, Mentz noted.
The minimum wage has not kept pace with the cost of living, she added, citing a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study which showed the purchasing power of British Columbia's minimum wage is about $1.50 less than it was in 1976.
In addition, working people are consumers in this province; and those working at the lowest wage are left with the burden of stimulating the economy, said the NOLC president.
The North Okanagan Labour Council is pleased the government paid attention to labour, anti-poverty groups and families in addressing this issue. The increase (to $7.60 per hour Nov. 1 and $8 on Nov. 1, 2001) will help lift many families out of poverty and take them off the need to rely on food banks. This increase is not enough, but it's a step in the right direction.
Mentz was disappointed to see so many in the business community lobby so hard against the increase. Many business groups had argued for a tax cut, apparently ignoring the fact a tax cut will do little, or nothing, to help the lowest-paid workers.
The business community has argued this hike will create an unfair advantage in the service sector. Mentz responds: "How can it be an unfair advantage if all employers have to meet the same minimum requirements? Maybe they should focus on customer service and creating employment, rather than keeping their lowest paid workers below the poverty line."
"These people need to put food on the table, provide their children with good health care and an education for their future. We need to move forward as a province and improve the economy for all B.C. residents."