author: taylor balfour | news writer
Despite the rise, the “fight for 15” continues on.
To the joy of many university and high school students, the minimum wage in the province, as of October 1, has raised to $10.96 an hour. Previously, the rate had been $10.72 an hour, which was the lowest minimum wage rate in the entire country.
“The way that minimum wage works in Saskatchewan is it’s linked to inflation: a proxy for the cost of living,” explains Jason Childs, an economic professor at the University of Regina.
“So the idea is its legislative, its mechanical. It keeps that minimum wage from being eroded by increasing costs of living. That’s the structure we’ve got now.”
With this being the current structure in the province, Saskatchewan, since this raise, has now been bumped to the second-lowest minimum wage rate in Canada.
“One, you’ve got different governments with very different priorities and some are more willing to take the risks associated with raising minimum wage,” Childs explains.
“Minimum wage hasn’t been terribly what’s called ‘binding’ for a lot of people in this province until relatively recently. Run it back three or four years and nobody was starting at minimum wage, so nobody cared.”
Since the change at the beginning of the month, Newfoundland and Labrador has been named with having the lowest minimum wage rate with $10.75 an hour. The current highest is in Nunavut, sitting at $13 dollars an hour.
In September 2016, Alberta announced that their cabinet passed a regulation that by 2018 they would raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, with the rate gradually going up year by year.
In May 2017, Ontario followed their lead, claiming that by the beginning of 2019, they will have done the same.
This change have since sparked the “Fight for 15” also known as the “Fight for $15 and fairness” movement in Ontario, in which more locations and organizations demand to set minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“The minimum wage was frozen at $10.25 for four years, while food and transportation costs continued to rise,” the Fight for $15 and Fairness website for Ontario workers claimed.
“In 2016, indexation brought the minimum wage up to $11.40. But this is still more than 16 per cent below the poverty line.”
If a province like Saskatchewan were to follow in Alberta and Ontario’s footsteps, raising minimum wage in the same manner these provinces are in the process of doing, what would happen?
“If I was a young person I’d be terrified of a 15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage because you’re not who they’re going to hire at 15 dollars an hour. They’re gonna hire this stay at home parent, or the older person with more experience,” Childs claimed.
“You don’t know how to do a job yet and that’s part of these minimum wage jobs, it’s learning how to be a good employee. It’s a foot in the door.”
In 2009, Stats Canada reported that around “817,000 people were working at or below the provincial minimum wage. This represents 5.8 per cent of all employees in Canada.”
At the time, minimum wage ranged from $8 an hour in British Columbia to “$9.50 per hour in Ontario.”
“The problem with the 15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage is it’s likely to reduce the number of jobs available. Either new firms aren’t going to start, existing firms aren’t going to expand, or they’re going to automate,” Childs continues.
“Firms are no different than anyone else. If price goes up, you buy less and you look for ways to save money.”
“Everything becomes more expensive. There’s reason to believe that aggressive movements in the minimum wage are inflationary,” he continues.
While Ontario’s ‘Fight for $15 and Fairness’ organization claims that “part-time, casual, temporary and contract work is growing faster than full-time permanent work. This leaves an increasing number of us with little job security, juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet, struggling to manage erratic schedules, and without access to basic health, unemployment, and pension benefits.”
Childs argues that raising minimum wage wouldn’t change job security, in fact, may even make it worse.
“By aggressively increasing the minimum wage it’s handing the keys to so much of the economy to large national and multinational corporations. You’re basically handing the whole thing to Walmart, because who can afford the machines? It’s Walmart, it’s Superstore, it’s McDonald’s,” he explains.
“Do we really want an economy that is dominated even more by these big multinationals? Or do we wanna have small local businesses that are actually owned by people in business and not these giant chains?”
“If I was a young person I would definitely, personally not be pushing for a 15-dollars-an-hour minimum wage,” Childs claims.
Saskatchewan workers wanting a $15 minimum wage have made their own group: ‘Fight for 15 Saskatchewan’, to match with organizations in other provinces.
“For those of us making less than $15/hour, we know what it’s like to struggle to get by. Saskatchewan workers are struggling to make ends meet,” their website claims.
“We think it’s time to share the wealth. All around us, the movement to build decent jobs is growing.”
They cite the decisions made by Alberta and Ontario to raise the minimum wage, as well as cite some locations in the United States and in Canada in which the fight continues to raise their wage.
“Who loses? The people who might have been able to find a job at 11 dollars an hour that now can’t,” Childs explains.
“What it is and what it will do is it’ll shrink the number of jobs a little bit and the number of jobs will not grow as quickly. That’s what happens.”
“Also, you’re gonna see less turnover. Which is good for business in some regards, but there’s less opportunities for new people to enter those jobs.”