THOUGHTS ON MINIMUM WAGE
Committee hearings will travel province to gauge public opinion on initiative //
Ontario’s bid to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — a move that is feared by businesses but has the support of some prominent economists — is being put to the public this week.
The Liberal government’s proposed legislation on labour reforms, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, starts committee hearings Monday that will travel the province.
The bill would boost the minimum wage, which is set to rise with inflation from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, up to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the following year.
Businesses are strongly opposed to the increase, particularly the quick pace of it. A coalition of groups including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Franchise Association are sending Premier Kathleen Wynne a letter Monday, slamming the “arbitrary” increase.
Business groups had been calling for the government to first perform an economic analysis, and have now commissioned their own, which the coalition said will be complete next month.
“To plan effectively and protect jobs, employers need predictability and time to adjust the cost of other inputs where we can,” the coalition writes. “There is no way to absorb and adjust to a 32 per cent hit in less than 18 months.”
Karl Wirtz, the CEO and founder of a packaging company in Brampton, said he may have to consider bankruptcy. “This is something that has got me scared out of my mind,” he said.
The minimum wage increase will mean an extra $1 million for WG Pro-Manufacturing’s employees, Wirtz said. About half of them make minimum wage and the rest will have to get commensurate pay bumps, he said. The company, which does co-packaging for foods and confectionery products, is focused on growth, Wirtz said, and as such is operating within tight margins. He hasn’t budgeted for an extra $1 million a year and is locked into contracts with big customers. The only way he sees out of the pricing structure is bankruptcy.
“You have to give businesses an opportunity to phase it into their program. So yes, let’s shoot for $14, let’s shoot for $15, but scale it over the next coming years,” Wirtz said.
The legislative committee will travel this week to Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Kingston and Windsor, and next week to London, Kitchener, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto.