Last September, the federal New Democratic Party pledged to implement a $15 minimum wage for all federally-regulated workers – a move that will benefit approximately 100,000 people across Canada.1 This important stand will help make the issue of fair wages and decent jobs a key issue in the federal election, currently scheduled for Monday, October 19, 2015.
In 2014, Ontario’s successful Raise the Minimum Wage Campaign forced the provincial government to raise the minimum wage from $10.25 an hour to $11.00 an hour and peg it to annual price increases – a big step forward after being frozen for four years.
However, $11 an hour falls far short of what is needed to bring minimum wage earners above the poverty line. That’s why the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage is continuing the fight for fair wages. Evidence shows that minimum-wage workers in Ontario – and across Canada – need at least $15 an hour to generate an income that is 10% above the poverty line.
The vast majority of Canadians support calls for a higher minimum wage. To support them, this flyer provides some more information about why we need a federal $15 minimum wage.
Why do we need a federal $15 minimum wage?
The federal minimum wage was eliminated in 1996 and at present, there is no federal minimum wage. Instead, minimum wage workers in these sectors earn the minimum wage that is in place in the province where they usually work. In all provinces the minimum wage falls far short of lifting full-time workers out of poverty.
Because there is no decent federal standard for the minimum wage, workers doing the same job in one province often earn significantly different wages than others doing the same job elsewhere. This undermines the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.
Why can’t a federal minimum wage apply to everyone?
By law, provincial governments, not the federal government, are responsible for employment and minimum wage laws. Federal political parties can only target policy change where they would have the power to change laws if they get elected.
That said, a federal minimum wage is critical to a few key sectors of the economy that are outside provincial authority. Employment standards in sectors like banking, telecommunications, transportation, fishing and federal public services are regulated by the federal government. A federal minimum wage would make a big difference to low wage workers in these sectors.
1 Nuttall, Jeremy J. “Surprise beneficiary of federal minimum wage: Radio reporters.” The Tyee. September 18, 2014.
Why Should I Care About a Federal Minimum Wage?
A $15 federal minimum wage will help us fight to increase wages elsewhere.
Raising the wages of the lowest paid workers helps put upward pressure on wages everywhere. Whenever low and minimum wage workers have a greater range of employment choices, it means there is more room for workers to leave one job for a better one. When this happens, employers may decide to pay their workers more in order to retain them or to reduce turnover. This is also why a raise for minimum wage workers tends have a ripple effect throughout the economy, especially for lower-income workers.
Making the case for a federal $15 minimum wage helps us fight for a provincial $15 minimum wage.
Establishing a $15 federal minimum wage would be an important victory, reflecting a consensus among people across Canada and Quebec that no full-time worker should be living below the poverty line. It would also set a standard against which the provinces would be measured and help expose the present inadequacy of provincial minimum wages.
A decent national standard
Re-instating the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour and increasing it annually to keep up with rising prices (as measured through the Consumer Price Index), would create a national standard that raises low-income workers’ wages to at least 10% above the poverty line, as measured by the pre-tax Low Income Measure.
Because there is no single, high standard for a pan-Canadian minimum wage, workers doing the same job in one province can earn wages lower than others doing the same job elsewhere. Such wage differentials also mean that low income workers have variable access to income support through the federal Employment Insurance program, which already suffers from the problem of regional fragmentation and unfairness.
Workers must re-assert the importance of establishing a high, universal, pan-Canadian minimum standard for wages – and for high, universal standards for all social programs.
- Principles for a decent minimum wage
- No full-time worker should live in poverty.Minimum wage earners should earn wages that are at least 10% above the poverty line (pre-tax low income measure).The minimum wage should increase annually to keep pace with rising prices.Workers need $15 now!
- email@example.com / 416-531-0778 ext. 221
#15andfairness / @fairwagesnow / Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage; 15andfairness.org