Anti-poverty advocates in New Brunswick say the Liberal government’s plan to increase minimum wage to $11 an hour this spring won’t lift people out of poverty in the province.
“The main objection we have right now is there is no plan to increase it in the other years,” said Jean-Claude Basque.
Basque is with the the Common Front for Social Justice, an anti-poverty group pushing for increased pay rates and better employment standards for New Brunswick workers.
The New Brunswick government will increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour in late April.
Donald Arseneault, minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, said the government is committed to getting New Brunswick’s minimum wage out the bottom of the pack nationally.
“We’ve gone back and we’ve increased it twice, we are going to increase it again early this year and hopefully we are going to continue to creep up,” Arseneault said.
According to the Goverment of Canada, New Brunswick’s current minimum wages rate of $10.65 per hour is among the lowest in the country, second only to Newfoundland and Labrador, which is $10.50 an hour.
Moncton mother Paula Ambers, who works part-time for minimum wage, said the increase isn’t happening fast enough. She says she can’t afford to work full-time because she can’t afford to pay for child care for her six-year-old daughter.
“I don’t think that they are putting enough effort into getting it to where it needs to be fast enough for everyone out there,” Ambers said.
According to Basque, roughly six per cent, or 18,500 workers in the province earn minimum wage.
Basque says the province needs to make a formal commitment to increase minimum wages every year until it reaches $15 an hour, not only to lift people out of poverty, but also to give businesses more time to adjust to the wage increases.
“They want to know in advance what are going to be the increases,” Basque said.
Marley McGinnis, who opened a small business called “The Play Cafe” in Moncton in late November, says she’s hired five staff who all work for minimum wage. She says managing any wage increases will be difficult.
“We would either have to increase our prices or we may have to cut back on staff hours,” McGinnis said.
However, she supports increasing the minimum wage rate in the province, as long increases slide in slowly over several years, so business owners like herself can plan ahead.
“I think that it would offer a lot of positive benefits to families in the community that are making minimum wage, it would give them more of a disposable income for activities such as this attending The Play Cafe,” she said.
The province is expected to make a formal announcement regarding the planned minimum wage increased later in January.