On Tuesday, the government shared that the province’s current minimum wage at $11.81 per hour — the lowest minimum wage in the country — will jump to $13 per hour on Oct. 1 of this year.
On Oct. 1 of next year, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will increase by a dollar to $14 per hour and again to $15 per hour on on Oct. 1, 2024.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe had mentioned during question period on Monday that the government was looking at increasing minimum wage in Saskatchewan.
It represents a 27-per cent increase to the minimum wage by 2024.
“World events continue to put upward pressure on the cost of living in Saskatchewan and across Canada,” said Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan in a government release on Tuesday.
“Our government is committed to ensuring life is affordable for our low-income residents by increasing the minimum wage over the next three years. This commitment to affordability will support Saskatchewan workers, and ensure Saskatchewan is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”
According to the government, the planned increases to Saskatchewan’s minimum wage reflect a market adjustment instead of relying on the province’s traditional indexation formula.
In the past, the province has used the indexation formula to provide equal weight to changes to the Consumer Price Index and average hourly wage.
However, the increases over the next couple years will reflect a move to more closely align workers’ salaries with changing market forces, government officials said.
“As we continue to grow Saskatchewan, we want to attract quality investments and jobs so that all citizens can benefit. Making this change to the minimum wage is a step in that direction,” Morgan added.
Saskatchewan’s minimum was set at $11.45 prior to the latest hike last October.
Morgan predicts the increase will affect around 45,000 workers by the time it’s fully implemented.
A spokesperson from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) was quick to express their “disappointment” with the announcement, and said the government “failed to consult” the organization ahead of time.
“If the government had asked, CFIB would have told them that many small businesses are not in a position to take on additional wage costs right now, and that cost-offsetting measures, such as the introduction of a youth wage and liquor server wage, would have helped mitigate the impact the impact of today’s announcement on struggling small businesses,” CFIB Saskatchewan Provincial Affairs Director Kathleen Cook said.
Cook noted that 42 per cent of respondents to a recent survey said their business had returned to pre-pandemic sales levels, and that with coming small business corporate tax and sales tax increases the minimum wage increase will likely be difficult to absorb.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Lori Johb welcomed the announcement but criticized the two-and-a-half year timeline for the increase and added she thinks the move to $15 per hour should have been made years ago.
“While it seems like a significant increase it would have been great to start at $15 and go up from there,” she said.
“And we’ve been calling for a $15 for years now and it’s almost too late for $15.”
Some experts have suggested that Saskatchewan’s current minimum wage leaves earners well below the poverty line, and one study published more than eight years ago suggested the living wage in Regina at that time to be $16.46.
“We know the living wage in Saskatoon and Regina are more than $15 an hour. They’re closer to $18 an hour. So while it’s a start and I think it’s going to help we’ve got a long ways to go,” Johb said.
The Saskatchewan opposition agreed that the increase comes later than it should have, and that it’s being rolled out too slowly.
They also called the province’s indexation formula flawed and suggested that it will again leave Saskatchewan minimum wage workers with lower pay than those in other jurisdictions receive once the indexation formula kicks back in.
“The minimum wage formula is based on a midpoint between the average hourly earnings in Saskatchewan for Saskatchewan workers, and the consumer price index,” said Saskatchewan NDP Labour Critic Jennifer Bowes.
“And we can see that that’s not keeping up with inflation and costs of living, and the government knows this.”
According to the latest Statistics Canada data, the average hourly wage including overtime in Saskatchewan is $28.17.