Min­i­mum im­bal­ance

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

The ref­er­ence was buried deep in a clos­ing com­mu­niqué is­sued fol­low­ing the lat­est ses­sion of the Coun­cil of At­lantic Premiers last month in Hal­i­fax. In fact, it was lo­cated in the third last para­graph of the two-page press re­lease de­tail­ing joint ef­forts to grow the re­gional econ­omy, cre­ate jobs and stream­line reg­u­la­tory co-operation.

Near the end, premiers fi­nally at­tempted to ad­dress the ele­phant in the room – im­mi­nent ma­jor in­creases to min­i­mum wages in On­tario, Al­berta, Bri­tish Columbia and other prov­inces. Many of them will reach $15 an hour in early 2019.

The four premiers agreed, “to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties to align min­i­mum wage rates in the re­gion,” and reach a goal of at­tain­ing pre­dictabil­ity and con­sis­tency through­out At­lantic Canada.

Will a $15-min­i­mum wage at­tract even more At­lantic Cana­dian work­ers to On­tario or Al­berta? To keep work­ers here, will busi­nesses be forced to pay sub­stan­tially higher wages?

Last year, there was con­sid­er­able angst in the At­lantic busi­ness com­mu­nity over min­i­mal, min­i­mum wage in­creases. P.E.I. now has the high­est rate at $11.25 an hour, fol­lowed by New Brunswick and New­found­land and Labrador at $11. Nova Sco­tia has the low­est wage – $10.35 for in­ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers and $10.85 for ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers.

A valid com­plaint of busi­nesses has been un­ex­pected in­creases to the min­i­mum wage. They must bud­get and it’s a les­son that At­lantic premiers seem to have fi­nally learned. There is a Mar­itime com­mit­ment to ad­just min­i­mum wages once a year on April 1, gen­er­ally tied to the con­sumer price in­dex; and the four At­lantic prov­inces are ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to align rates.

On­tario’s min­i­mum wage leaped to $14 this month. It cre­ated tur­moil in the fast food in­dus­try with some em­ploy­ers re­duc­ing em­ploy­ees’ ben­e­fits to pay for the in­creases. The re­ac­tion was swift. On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne called those em­ploy­ers bul­lies and con­sumer boy­cotts in sup­port of work­ers forced some em­ploy­ers to back down.

Polls in­di­cate most of On­tario res­i­dents sup­port the min­i­mum wage in­creases. And a sur­pris­ing num­ber of On­tario busi­nesses have em­braced the higher wage lev­els as well. They feel if they can re­tain an ex­pe­ri­enced work­force, then pay­ing a higher wage is a sound and ac­cept­able cost of do­ing busi­ness.

The premiers have found a key ally in the re­spected At­lantic Prov­inces Eco­nomic Coun­cil (APEC), which has en­dorsed the con­cept of pre­dictabil­ity and con­sis­tency in set­ting min­i­mum wages.

Re­cently APEC re­leased a re­port card, which echoed the premiers’ coun­cil views.

At­lantic align­ment would re­quire that P.E.I. hold or slow its rate in­creases while other prov­inces, es­pe­cially Nova Sco­tia, catch up. That prospect has al­ready drawn the ire of a P.E.I. anti-poverty group, which says Is­land work­ers would suf­fer from such an agree­ment. P.E.I. has al­ways felt that it must pay a higher min­i­mum wage rate to re­tain work­ers here, es­pe­cially in fish­eries and agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

At­lantic premiers must fast track a re­gional strat­egy to as­sist both work­ers and em­ploy­ers amid this grow­ing min­i­mum wage im­bal­ance threat from other re­gions of the coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.