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$15 and Fairness: Workers link $15 minimum wage to decent work

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Photo: Toby Scott/flickr

Wednesday, April 15 is a global day of action on a $15 minimum wage and decent work. Actions are happening across the U.S., and in B.C., Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

Both in the U.S. and in Canada, workers are making links between decent wages and other employment standards. The Ontario campaign is named $15 and Fairness, calling for a "$15 minimum wage, and decent hours, paid sick days, respect at work, and rules that protect all of us."

We thought this would be a great time to release a report written by Gwen Suprovich, a PAID intern at the CLC. The Minimum Wage in Canada reviews the demographics of minimum wage workers in Canada, and the methods that provinces use to determine minimum wages.

Gwen finds that minimum-wage earners in Canada don't fit the stereotype of teenagers in their first job. The majority are over 20, not in school, and one in six have a child at home. The proportion of minimum wage workers employed by large employers (more than 500) has grown from 30 per cent in 1998 to over 45 per cent in 2013.

Gwen notes the lack of federal leadership in setting the minimum wage, and finds that most provinces use mechanisms that are not transparent and lack accountability. While several provinces have review boards, only Nova Scotia requires the board's reports to be released publicly. (Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan do release their reports online, but are not required to do so.) Review boards can be effective, but must be transparent and government's must be accountable to their findings.

In terms of policy recommendations, Gwen finds that the minimum wage should be set at a level that would keep a full-time worker above the poverty line. To reduce the impact on business, increases should be announced well in advance. Once wages reach a livable level, they should be indexed to inflation.

Our case for raising the minimum wage is well supported by a CCPA report out of B.C., The Case for Increasing the Minimum Wage, which noted that the minimum wage could be a useful tool for reducing poverty, as long as it was set sufficiently high.

Maybe I'll see you out in the streets.

Photo: Toby Scott/flickr

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