ANALYSIS: Wage Increase Welcome After Years of Neglect: yet minimum wage earners are still left behind

Today, the Fight for $15 & Fairness Halifax is celebrating a victory: the Nova Scotia government has announced an increase to the minimum wage of $1 an hour, which would be the most substantial increase to Nova Scotia’s minimum wage since 2010. The government is also eliminating the inexperienced minimum wage, which we has also been a demand of our campaign. The announced changes also removed the partial hour rule, which rounded workers wages up to the next half hour, a move costing all workers money.

We needed this substantial minimum wage raise due to a decade of our wages falling behind. What we need now is a commitment from the government to bring full time minimum wage workers and people on income assistance to a level of income that they can live healthy lives.

Without this commitment, the government is merely pushing up the schedule to have full time minimum wage workers earning be consistent with Canada’s Low Income Cut Off, or LICO, which is a measure of low-income status. But LICO is the lowest of all of the poverty metrics. If the committee were to use the Market-Based Measure, which is based on actual the cost of necessities, the committee would be forced to concede a higher minimum wage. The governments goal to use this measure of poverty was established in the 2018 minimum wage committee report, which can be found here.

Many of our members fear that this increase is just an election ploy as the election will likely be called before the next annual increase to the minimum wage. If they are just moving already promised minimum wage increases up in the schedule, then this substantial increase will be followed by smaller than promised increases. We know that our economy can handle to take better care of its lowest waged workers, and we want to see that kind of commitment from the government.

The living wage, or the wage rate required to pay the necessities for a family of four with two parents working full-time, for Halifax is $19.17, according to a 2016 report put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In 2019, the CCPA surveyed average rents for 2 bedroom apartments in various neighbourhoods in major cities across Canada in relation to the hourly legislated minimum wage and the income required to make the 30% rent to income benchmark. They found that it would require earnings of $22.57 an hour (or 78 hours of work at the Nova Scotia minimum wage of $11.55 an hour) to afford the average rent in HRM. Even in traditionally low rental areas such as Spryfield, it would require an hourly wage of $17.43 (or 60 hours of work a week at minimum wage).

The Fight for Fifteen & Fairness campaign was founded based on the victories and lessons learned from other provinces in winning substantial gains to their minimum wages. These increases coincided with decreased unemployment and healthier economies, dispelling the “doom and gloom” myths so often associated with large minimum wage increases.

We look forward to this recent victory propelling us towards more substantial increases to both the minimum wage and greater rights for all workers in Nova Scotia. When we organize, we win!

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