Province hints at raising Manitoba’s minimum wage after freeze

Global News / File

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is hinting at an increase to the province’s minimum wage following a freeze last year and another deadlock between labour and management advisers.

The Progressive Conservative government is to announce a new minimum wage to replace the current $11 hourly rate “in the very near future,” said Cliff Cullen, the province’s minister for growth, enterprise and trade.

RELATED: Minimum wage hike not the best way to reduce poverty in Manitoba, says premier

A labour-management review committee failed to reach consensus on the issue in 2015. Worker representatives called for a sharp rise and management officials called for a freeze.

The committee was tasked with taking another run at the question late last year, but it has once again failed to come to an agreement.

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“We did hear back and … (there was) not a consensus. There was some agreement on certain components, so we’re taking all that advisement and we’re going to try to come up with a solution for all Manitobans,” Cullen said Friday.

The rate could be automatically adjusted every year using a formula yet to be determined, he said. Some provinces increase their minimum wage along with the inflation rate, while Saskatchewan uses a combination of the inflation rate and the rate of change in the average hourly pay of all workers.

RELATED: A look at minimum wages across Canada

During its 17 years in power, Manitoba’s former NDP government raised the minimum wage every year by varying amounts announced in the spring budget. The Tories decided to freeze it after winning last year’s election.

Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said he would like to see the minimum wage go up to $15.23 an hour over the course of a few years.

RELATED: Reality check: Is a $15 minimum wage bad for the economy?

“We’ve long been advocating that minimum wage should be a living wage — that anyone who works full-time shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” Rebeck said Friday.

Poverty-rights activist Josh Brandon, who is with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said he’d like the rate set at $15.53.

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Management representatives, however, have told the province Manitoba’s rate already compares favourably with other jurisdictions.

One detail Cullen was willing to reveal is that the province is not eyeing reduced minimum wage rates for tip-earners in the service industry or for students. Ontario has such a system, often called a tiered structure, and management representatives have in the past asked Manitoba to follow suit.

“We’re not entertaining any … tiering in the near future at this point in time,” Cullen said.

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