Howling at the Moon – Minimum wage increase will not fix the problem

Filed under: Opinion |

by Sylene Argent

So, I read last week the province has intent to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019. That’s a huge jump, in a short amount of time, from the $11.40 an hour it is set at now.

Are any working-class people tired of getting slapped in the face yet?

I’d say in this area, and I could be wrong, a $15 an hour job is considered “decent pay.” Does it pay the bills? Barely. But, when you rummage through what jobs are paying these days, that number is considered “better.”

My generation has had a hard time finding employment to begin with. Many of my high school friends are out-of-province or at least out of the region (I hear some are returning recently because of lack of work elsewhere, too). Many are paying off student loans for degrees they have never been able to use.

Those who have stuck around have worked years, typically beginning at minimum wage, and have earned their wage increases. So, now the province want to tell those employees who are currently earning around that $15/h wage, or perhaps even up to $20,  that their time was wasted as they can flip burgers at the same rate of pay?

According to www.health.gov.on.ca, “Starting August 1, 2015, the province will continue increasing the minimum base wage from $14.00 to $15.50 for eligible PSWs.” It does note that a maximum increase is set for $19/h to all individuals providing publicly funded personal support services in the home and community care sector. Payscale.com notes the average RPN makes around $23 per hour.

Healthcare work is tough, and requires an education. Who would want to work in healthcare when one would not need to pay for an education and get paid the same rate, or close to it, at a job with less responsibility?

According to payscale.com, the average ECE in Canada makes less than $16/hour. The same website notes per hour, a hairdresser makes an average of around $12 per (plus tips), a medical office assistant earns around $16, a welder $23, and the average factory worker earns nearly $15 per hour.

The problem I see is that we have educated people working for the same or just above the current minimum, and that wage gap is about to get even tighter with this intended increase. My fear, is ultimately,  that we will have a two-tier system; those earning minimum wage, or just above it, and those who earn much, much more.

With this increase, small and medium sized businesses will likely have to cut back on staff, raise prices of goods and services, and will have to avoid hiring young people due to their lack of experience. Employees will work short staffed to cover the difference. Business owners will also have to look at raising wages for long-time employees who now make around that $15/hr mark so they are not making the same hourly wage as new hires, if they can.

Would we all like to make a good living? You bet! But, there are too many hands in the cookie jar to make that possible now-a-days. Look at the increases over the past several years to just to buy your license plate sticker. If the province was worried about constituents’ bank accounts, reducing those prices, including the cost of hydro, instead of continual increases, would be a good place to start.

Every year, it seems the value of our dollar continues to inflate. The cost of living continues to inflate, too. Paying people more will result in the price of everything going up, in my opinion. It’s a vicious cycle.
In addition, this increase is just going to divide Ontarians based on their employment status instead of concentrating on working together to demand a better solution.