Pressure builds to boost Manitoba’s minimum wage

With Manitoba set to have the second-lowest minimum wage in the country, there is pressure to give it big boost.

Last week, New Brunswick announced it will be hiking the minimum wage next year by $2 per hour in two stages to $13.75. That would put Manitoba second last in the country at $11.95, ahead of only Saskatchewan at $11.81.

Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said the province’s minimum wage is embarrassing.

“I think the idea of making it acceptable to still pay poverty wages needs to come to an end,” said Rebeck.

Anti-poverty advocates have been calling for a $15 per hour living wage for years. They now say the number is around $16.

Josh Brandon from the Social Planning Council said Manitoba’s rate is too low.

“Far too many kids are going hungry living in housing that’s unaffordable or in poor condition or overcrowded,” said Brandon.

Manitoba does small inflationary increases every year to its minimum wage.

A government spokesperson sent CTV News this statement:

“As we continue to address the ongoing economic and public health challenges posed by COVID-19, our government remains committed to making life more affordable for all Manitobans.“

A big hike could be bad for businesses still reeling from pandemic lockdowns.

Kathleen Cook from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said any increase in costs right now would be very tough for small businesses to handle.

“Only a third are back to their pre-pandemic revenues and over 30 per cent actually say they’re losing money every day that they’re open,” said Cook.

To counter this, the MFL said support for businesses could offset the added costs as long as it is targeted.

“The government giving these blanket dollars out to businesses that don’t need the support because they’re saying we’re treating everyone equally is wrong,” said Rebeck.

The province said less than five per cent of the labour force is based on the minimum wage. 

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