Labour reform package worthy of support
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
Does Ontario really need a higher minimum wage? Consider this. To live above the low income cut-off, also called the poverty line, you must earn $23,867 after deductions. If you work a 40-hour week at the current minimum wage of $11.40 per hour, your gross income is about $23,700. Before deductions.
In Hamilton there are nearly 30,000 citizens classified as working poor. Many of those work more than one part-time job, typically earning minimum wage. They’re working but can’t earn enough to pull them out of poverty.
Now, let’s talk about the $15 per hour minimum wage. If you worked full time at that rate, you’re gross income would be just over $31,000. You won’t be taking many Caribbean vacations on that, so what will you do with the extra eight grand? Chances are, you’ll spend it on food, on the necessities of life, on perhaps the odd nicety. You’ll be more able to afford your kids taking part in sports and other community activities. The bottom line is that extra money isn’t going to give you a luxurious lifestyle; but it is going to flow directly into the local economy. More buying. More transactions. More investments. That’s called net benefit.
Business groups like the Hamilton and Ontario chambers of commerce don’t agree. They warn changes like the new minimum wage and other reforms announced by the Kathleen Wynne government yesterday threaten to stifle job creation and economic growth. Those concerns should be heard and addressed. But it’s also fair to note that no minimum wage increase has ever been supported by the business lobby sector, and also that warnings about the dire consequences of past increases haven’t materialized for the most part.
It’s not just the wage that is opposed by the business sector. Raising minimum vacation entitlements from two weeks to three after five years of employment. Requiring employers to give fair notice of schedule changes, and in some cases pay three hours of wages if a worker’s shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice. Offering 10 days of personal emergency leave each year, two of them paid. Making it easier for temporary, building services and home and community care workers to unionize.
These are hardly Cadillac work enhancements, especially at a time where temporary and precarious employment in the sector is growing faster than ever in Canada’s strongest economy. These changes don’t make a socialist utopia. We’re still lagging behind many Canadian jurisdictions. And New York state already has a $15 minimum wage.
Concerns from all sides should be heard and addressed. But ultimately these changes, carefully administered and rolled out, will improve the lot of Ontario workers and for that reason deserve support.