Manitoba’s minimum wage to rise this weekend, but some say it still lags living wage

Click to play video: 'Minimum wage increase could give businesses headaches'
Minimum wage increase could give businesses headaches
A minimum wage increase coming to our province tomorrow could mean good things for your bottom-line, but it's not being felt as positively in the business community. – Mar 31, 2023

Manitoba’s minimum wage increases to $14.15 an hour this weekend, and will receive another bump to $15.30 an hour in October.

Labour minister Jon Reyes announced last week that the change will put Manitoba in the top tier among the provinces — a big change from its current $13.50 wage, which is at the bottom, above only Saskatchewan — but the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) says even with the October increase, it’s still not a living wage in 2023.

“If you told me six years ago we’d get up to $15 an hour this year, I’d have been happy, because that’s what a living wage was six years ago,” MFL president Kevin Rebeck told Global Winnipeg.

“But we’ve all felt the increase in groceries, gas and the rising costs of living. We’re still falling fall short of a living wage, which is the bare basic budget you need to get by.”

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Rebeck said in order to make sure adults who work full-time don’t have to live in poverty, a living wage would be more like $18 an hour today.

“A living wage … really means covering your rent, your hydro, your groceries, a bus pass or some way to get around,” he said.

“We’re all feeling that pinch, but if you’re a low-wage worker, that pinch that you’re feeling is overwhelming. … You’re not able to make ends meet, you’re not able to get by.

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“Many more people are having to visit food banks or they’re having to go seek other government services which means we’re all paying a price when we don’t have a living wage that people earn.”

Click to play video: 'Canadian Federation of Independent Business on minimum wage'
Canadian Federation of Independent Business on minimum wage

The increased wage will also impact small businesses, many of whom are already choosing to pay employees above the minimum, said the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

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The CFIB’s Brianna Solberg said that while there are diverse opinions on the bump from small business owners across the province, the one constant is that employers are aware of the pinch their workers are facing.

“They’re keenly aware of the budget restrictions their employees are facing right now. Everybody’s budgets are tight, inflation is crunching everybody.

“Our members, 80 per cent of them report that they’re already paying above the minimum wage. So they’re aware that everybody is feeling the pressure of inflation right now.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba Federation of Labour on minimum wage'
Manitoba Federation of Labour on minimum wage

Solberg said the increased wages are just one stressor for business owners in a difficult time.

“This minimum wage hike is coming at a time when small business owners have seen almost every line item of their budgets go up,” she said.

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“They’ve also been dealing with increased fuel costs, increased utility costs, increased rent costs, insurance costs, so they’re all just piling on at the same time.

“They’re forcing business owners to have to increase their prices or reduce the number of staff they employ, and an alarming 20 per cent are considering closing their doors because of it.”

Solberg said small businesses have appreciated the government subsidies that have been available to this point but many will struggle with the additional wage cost and will be looking for more help.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba to raise minimum wage twice in 2023, labour minister says'
Manitoba to raise minimum wage twice in 2023, labour minister says

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