First to worst: ninth anniversary of B.C.’s minimum wage freeze

B.C. Federation of Labour: Today marks the ninth anniversary of the last increase to B.C.’s minimum wage on November 1, 2001.

Frozen at $8 an hour, and $6 an hour for a worker’s first 500 hours of work, B.C. had the highest minimum wage in the country in 2001. Today it has the lowest, and the Liberal government has indicated they have no plans to increase it.

“It is hard to understand the Liberal government’s steadfast refusal to increase the minimum wage,” says Federation president Jim Sinclair. “Liberal MLAs voted themselves massive salary increases and these same MLAs wilfully ignore the vast majority of British Columbians from all walks of life who want the minimum wage increased.”

“The Liberals told us they did not need to raise the minimum wage when the economy was producing jobs. When the economy was losing jobs they said we couldn’t afford to raise it. Now they cling to an unsubstantiated claim that raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses,” says Sinclair. “Governments in other provinces are dealing with the same economic realities and they have all increased their minimum wages,” says Sinclair.

Before he was moved to another cabinet post, the former Minister of Labour Murray Coell stated he did not believe raising the minimum wage would lead to job losses. Last month, 21 B.C. mayors joined with the Federation in calling for a $10 an hour minimum wage, the elimination of the so-called $6 an hour training wage and a mechanism for future annual increases linked to increase in the cost of living.

Contrary to what the Premier and Ministers of Labour have repeatedly claimed, provincial income tax cuts have not left B.C.’s minimum wage workers ahead of their counterparts in other provinces. Minimum wage workers in B.C. have less take home pay than minimum wage workers in every other province in Canada. For example, a full time minimum wage worker’s annual after tax income is $2,991 higher in Ontario and $2,297 higher in Newfoundland. The closest would be a minimum wage earner in P.E.I. who would still earn $699 a year more than a minimum wage worker in B.C. None of these comparisons take into account the higher cost of living in B.C.

“The Liberals’ nine year freeze on the minimum wage is a national embarrassment,” Sinclair added. “The government needs to listen to the vast majority of British Columbians and raise the minimum wage to $10 now.”