Fight to raise minimum wage must go on - OPSEU | National Union of Public and General Employees

Fight to raise minimum wage must go on - OPSEU

Ontario becomes first province with a minimum wage of more than $10 an hour.

Toronto (13 April 2010) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says pressure to raise the minimum wage must continue, despite the good news that Ontario has become the first province to establish a minimum wage topping $10 an hour.

In a message entitled, Don’t stop the minimum wage momentum, Patty Rout, OPSEU's first vice-president and treasurer, says the Ontario increase to $10.25 an hour (effective March 31) is welcome but there is no room for complacency.

"Those earning the minimum wage occupy some of the least-desired jobs in our society," Rout says.

"They are the ones who work in fast-food outlets, retail shops and service jobs, like non-unionized hotel cleaners. Disproportionately, minimum wage earners are young people, women and those from racial minority groups," she adds.

"Instead of recognizing their doggedness and work ethic by awarding them with mandated annual increases, society too often stigmatizes minimum-wage earners for working at ‘McJobs.’"

Remember Mike Harris

Rout says the campaign to increase minimum wage, which remained unchanged for nearly a decade under the Mike Harris Conservative government in Ontario, and was stalled at $8 an hour only three years ago, has demonstrated a number of important lessons.

"First, and perhaps most significantly, a regular increase in the minimum wage does not cause economic chaos, as neo-conservative economists would have us believe," she notes.

"The Great Recession from which we are slowly recovering from was not triggered by an increase in the minimum wage but instead by the greed and incompetence of so-called business leaders on Bay Street and Wall Street, who put their own private interests ahead of the common good," Rout adds.

"Second, putting more cash into the pockets of low-income working people is good for local economies. It’s money used for putting food on the table, shoes on children’s feet and, maybe, the ability to enroll a child in a parks and rec program. Most assuredly the extra bit of income isn’t spent on imported European automobiles and leisurely Caribbean cruises," she adds.

"Finally, the campaign to raise the minimum wage demonstrated that organized labour and its partners can produce results. Considerable credit must go to Toronto and York Region Labour Council, its friends in the NDP, and anti-poverty groups for launching the $10 an hour campaign in 2007 and forcing the hand of the McGuinty government to move forward after years of neglect."

Lobbying worked

Rout says the current Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty would not have "moved so far and so quickly" without such a strong lobbying campaign,

"So, let’s take a moment and celebrate Ontario’s new minimum wage and the benefits it brings to working people and our economy in general," she says.

"And then let’s get back to work on this issue. At the very least the minimum wage should be increased annually at no less than the rate of inflation."

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

Occupational Groups: