Ontario Hikes Minimum Wage – CFIB and CLC Not Happy

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CANADIAN MONEY

TORONTO – NEWS – Ontario is hiking the province’s minimum wage to a harmonized $15.00 per hour.

The Ford Government announced this morning that “As part of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, the Ontario government will introduce legislation that, if passed, would raise the general minimum wage from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022. Under the proposed changes, the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers would be eliminated and they would be entitled to the general minimum wage. Students under 18, homeworkers and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides would also see an increase in their special minimum wage rates”.

“Ontario’s workers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as they’ve stocked shelves, kept our supply chain moving and helped so many of us enjoy a meal among family and friends at a local restaurant,” says Premier Ford. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing the minimum wage was at the top of the list. As the cost of living continues to go up, our government is proud to be working for workers, putting more money into their pockets by increasing the minimum wage.”

Harmonized Wage for Beverage Servers

Liquor servers have previously received below the general minimum wage, based on the belief customer tipping can make up the difference. However, many of these workers have increasingly seen their tips pooled and redistributed among many staff, making it harder for them to make ends meet. If the legislation is passed, liquor servers would be treated more fairly and see an unprecedented 19.5 per cent increase in their minimum hourly wage, as it changes from $12.55 per hour to the harmonized $15 per hour minimum wage.

The Ontario government is introducing legislation to increase minimum wages as the cost of living has increased considerably over the past several months, but wages for many have not kept pace.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath released the following statement ahead of an anticipated government announcement about Ontario’s minimum wage: “By cancelling the planned $15 minimum wage three years ago, Doug Ford has taken more than $5,300 out of the pockets of Ontario workers to date. The cost of everything has skyrocketed since then — like housing, auto insurance, food and gas — and $15 an hour isn’t nearly enough anymore. Workers need a bare minimum of $17 an hour to cover the cost of living. New Democrats have never believed in Doug Ford’s low-wage policies for Ontario’s working people — we believe all working people should have a chance to build a decent life here.”

CFIB says “Worst Possible Time”

The Canadian Federation for Independent Business states, “Ontario government’s surprise decision to increase the minimum wage without consultation comes at the worst possible time for small businesses. Today, only 37 per cent of Ontario’s small businesses are at normal revenues. Many are operating at a loss every single day they are open. The average COVID-19-related debt is a whopping $190,000, and small business owners report it will take two-plus years to get out of that hole”.

It is particularly concerning that the government has chosen to give restaurants – one of the hardest-hit and longest-shuttered sectors during the pandemic – 60 days’ notice of a 20 per cent increase ($2.45) to the liquor servers’ wage according to the business group.

“Small business owners heeded the call and understood when they were asked to close their doors to protect Ontarians’ health and safety. The pandemic has taken its toll, but it is not the only factor. The Ontario government chose to funnel shoppers to big box stores last holiday season while limiting small retailers to curbside only. The Ontario government chose to end its flagship small business support program one day before entering its third lockdown that lasted up to 200 days for some sectors. The Ontario government chose to allow big sports venues full capacity before local restaurants”.

In CFIB’s most recent survey, the increasing cost of doing business was the top concern of small business owners at 76 per cent, followed by supply chain challenges at 64 per cent. This move will not help to address Ontario’s labour challenges and will put more pressure on the wage scales for employers already paying above the minimum wage. January is usually the slowest month for many retailers. Commercial insurance rates are skyrocketing. The largest Canada Pension Plan (CPP) rise to date under the federal government’s CPP increase plan will take effect at the same time. Many businesses will lose their commercial eviction protection in mid-January and be asked to make up immediately for months of unpaid rent.

CLC says Friendly Talk Shows an Election is Nearing

The Canadian Labour Congress says the wage hike for workers on minimum wage is all smoke and mirrors.

Today’s minimum wage announcement is another example of how Conservatives start talking friendly about workers when votes are at stake, but Doug Ford’s real record is one of putting corporate insiders first and leaving workers behind.

“Behind Doug Ford’s chummy rhetoric, you find attacks on workers and cuts to services that everyday Ontarians rely on. Throughout his 1222 days in the premier’s office, Ford has put delivering perks to his buddies first – not helping hard-working Ontarians struggling to get by,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The Ontario PCs have consistently ignored the demands of workers throughout their time in office. When he took office, Ford cancelled a planned minimum wage increase to $15 an hour then earlier this year raised the minimum wage by a paltry 10 cents. Throughout the pandemic, Ford and his party opposed paid sick days.

“Ontario is the economic engine of Canada. But under Premier Ford, Ontario is a laggard, not a leader when it comes to wages. Ontario workers have fallen behind,” said Bruske. “British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories all have wages at fifteen dollars or higher already.”

“Ford’s record is one of ignoring workers and imposing pay cuts. The Doug Ford Conservatives wrote a law that imposed a 3.4% pay cut on Ontarians, under current inflation numbers. Doug Ford shouldn’t tell employers it’s fine to impose wage cuts, just when the cost of living is skyrocketing,” continued Bruske. “If you are a youth counsellor in this province, or you coordinate snowplows, or you work as a nurse, or are a food safety inspector – the fact is you are getting a pay cut courtesy of the Ford government’s wage cap.”