An ongoing dispute occurred in Windsor as Ontario workers rallied to protest for a raise in the minimum wage. The Ontario government raised the minimum wage to the current $11.
“The increase is a good start,” said Canadian Union of Public Employees’ President Fred Hahn, “but still not good enough to bring workers over the poverty line. It needs to be $14. At $11, that means somebody working full-time is not making enough to be above the poverty line.”
According to the Raise a Minimum Wage campaign, the current increase still has full time minimum-wage workers earning 16 percent below the poverty line.“We have to do this because we owe it to our kids, and their kids,” said Hahn.
Currently, there are approximately 500,000 people in Ontario earning minimum wage, according to a Statistics Canada report done in 2011. However, not all workers will receive the same raise in their pay.
Students under the age of 18 will receive a 70-cent raise instead of the 75-cent increase the majority of workers will receive. Liquor servers will only receive a 65-cent raise. Farm workers are completely excluded from the raise in salary.
“$11 per hour is a start,” said Paul Chislett, a representative with the Windsor Workers Action Center, “but it’s not enough. We’re trying to reduce the levels of inequality.”
The last time the minimum wage was increased in Ontario was in 2010. The increase in wage is meant to help the citizens and reduce some of their expenses. According to the National Household Survey released this year, 3.3 million households in Canada are paying more than what they should for housing—approximately 30 percent of their monthly salary.
“I believe the minimum wage should be $14 an hour,” said Leticia Boahen, one of the many minimum wage workers in Ontario. “Yes, $11 is great, but it is still not a living wage. It is not something that families can survive on. That idea that you hear from right-wing Conservatives that $11 is for entrants…it’s not accurate. There are many racialized workers, immigrants, people in the food industry—who are being paid below the $10.25 they should be paid—that are struggling.”
Currently, there is no official poverty line in Canada. Statistics Canada reported that 14.9 percent of Canadians have ‘low income’ but the group is hesitant to label that group as poor. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that poverty had been steadily rising in Canada since the mid-1990s.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business states, however, that an increase in the minimum wage would be a detriment to businesses and may end up costing Ontario citizens jobs instead of easing them out of poverty.
However, supporters of the raise state that a higher minimum wage can only help the economy and elevate the 5.5-6.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product poverty costs Ontario each year.
“It circulates,” said Hahn. “When you give people money in their pocket, they spend it in their community. It helps everyone.”
– Monica Newell