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Coronavirus: Québec Solidaire calls for minimum wage increase for essential service workers

Québec Solidaire's two co-spokespeople, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé.
Québec Solidaire's two co-spokespeople, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The second opposition in Quebec City says the novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed a need to better support low-paid essential service workers.

Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told Global News Morning that pay supplements offered to workers deemed essential during Quebec’s lockdown are a good start but need to go further.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Quebec elementary schools, daycares to gradually reopen in May

“I think this crisis has put under the spotlight people in our society that are essential to the well-being of our economy,” he told Global’s Laura Casella, saying now is the time to ensure workers are paid a higher wage not just for the duration of the crisis but permanently.

“What we want to see the government do is finally recognize the crucial importance of those workers and actually give them a living wage,” the Gouin MNA said.

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“Those workers have been asking for years now for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and this crisis has proven that they deserve it, that they deserve our respect and that they deserve a wage that is equivalent to their essential quality to our economy.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — What we know about Quebec’s plan to reopen elementary schools, daycares

Nadeau-Dubois says his party recognizes that many businesses suffering financially during the lockdown may not be able to afford to pay an increased wage to their workers and suggests that the government create a fund to help them “transition.”

However, he added: “We have to remember, not all businesses are struggling. We learned a few days ago, in fact, that supermarkets registered record-breaking profits in recent weeks. So it’s true to say that some businesses are struggling, and we have to help [them], but big corporations like Walmart and big supermarket chains in Quebec … they should be able to pay a living wage to their workers.”

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He added that he also hopes to see daycare workers receive a “COVID-19 bonus” akin to the hazard pay the government has offered front-line health-care workers in recent weeks.

Most of those workers are women and already face lower rates of pay, Nadeau-Dubois argued, and many are at greatly increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 when they are at work.

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“They [daycare workers], too, are on the front lines of the pandemic, so they should also receive that COVID-19 bonus,” he said.