There’s lots at stake as government considers raising minimum wage

Health care workers have special reasons to support raise for low-income earners

As the B.C. government considers increasing minimum wage levels, it is important to remind Victoria that there is support from the general public, labour and even some business groups for such a move. There is also good reason for health care workers to insist on a raise in the minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage for B.C.’s lowest paid workers makes sense from a principled social justice position,” says HEU assistant secretary business manager Zorica Bosancic. “But as frontline health care workers, we also know it makes sense from a health policy standpoint as well.”

The NDP government is considering increasing the minimum wage—which is strongly opposed by more reactionary employer groups—and its decision will depend on the level of support for a boost from groups like labour, says Bosancic. A formal decision is expected after the Aug. 5 consultation deadline and she urged HEU locals to get involved in the efforts to win a wage increase.

There is a clear relationship between the income level of a society and its population’s health. There is overwhelming evidence that a poor society is an unhealthy society. The higher the income standards of the population, the healthier its people.

“Society benefits when the lowest income earners can make a decent living,” says HEU assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic.

And members of the general public support a higher wage for them.

A poll of 600 British Columbians conducted for the B.C. Federation of Labour in Dec. 1999 showed sixty-one per cent moderately or strongly favour a higher minimum wage. Women, young people and lower income earners are the strongest supporters.

Why are B.C. business leaders resisting an increase to the minimum wage in this province?

In 1997, the minimum wage in B.C. was still $1.50 lower in real terms than it was in 1976. Real wages haven’t kept up with inflation, and the result is that those at the bottom end of the wage scale continue to fall further and further behind.

The B.C. business community argues that a tax-credit is better for low-income earners than a higher minimum wage. They obviously don’t know that workers in this income bracket usually pay little or no taxes, anyway.

“We have minimum standards for a reason — they are what’s required to just get by.” says Bosancic.