Minimum wage raise is a move in the right direction, says HEU

News release

The union says raising wages for B.C.’s lowest wage earners will mean a healthier population.

The Hospital Employees’ Union welcomes today’s announcement by the provincial government that it will be raising the minimum wage to $7.60 on Nov. 1 this year, and to $8.00 on Nov. 1, 2001. The government made the move after consulting with community, labour and business groups over the summer.

“As a health care workers’ union, we know that there are links between poverty and ill health,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “A prosperous population is a healthy population. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been pushing for a higher minimum wage.”

“And we dispute the popular notion that most minimum wage earners are dependent minors living at home who do not need a self- or family-supporting wage,” says Allnutt. “As a matter of fact, over half of them are over the age of 25, and 74 per cent of those are women.”

In the year of Women’s March 2000 against poverty, this is really good news.

Some business interests are saying that raising the minimum wage will mean that many small businesses will cut back on hours of work for some of their employees or lay them off altogether.

The facts do not bear out this fear mongering. In 1992 the B.C. unemployment rate was 10.2 per cent when the minimum wage was $5.50, and now the rate is 6.8 per cent with the minimum wage at $7.15.

People who earn low wages rarely are able to travel outside their communities, and they spend their money on local businesses. In small communities, business people recognize that the health of their community depends on a decent standard of living.

“This move is a great boost for working women in B.C. and for the health of B.C. families,” says Allnutt.