'The proposed changes are an unconscionable attack on the most vulnerable segment of the Island’s labour force.' - Shelley Ward.
Charlottetown (17 Feb. 2010) - The Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE/NUPGE) is strongly opposing the idea of a two-tier minimum wage that would allow employers to pay a lower rate to less experienced workers.
"Such changes to the wage rate are unnecessary and only serve to allow businesses to pay already low wage earners even less," the union says in the most recent issue of Accent, its main publication.
"The proposed changes are an unconscionable attack on the most vulnerable segment of the Island’s labour force," argues union president Shelley Ward.
"The proposed system creates administrative complexities that are wholly unnecessary. What is clear about a two-tiered minimum wage system is that it discriminates against workers, devalues workers, is open to abuse by employers, presents challenges in recruiting and retaining workers and defeats the purpose of a minimum wage."
In 2008, 5.6% of workers in P.E.I. were working for minimum wage or less, according to Statistics Canada. The current minimum wage in P.E.I. is $8.40, the third lowest in the country. Average weekly earnings in P.E.I. are the lowest in Canada – $697.11 compared to $736.31 in Nova Scotia, $757.88 in New Brunswick and $801.62 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Instituting a sub-standard minimum wage for some workers would only serve to exacerbate the poor situation low-wage earners in this province already find themselves," says Ward.
"Our union firmly believes that the province should focus its efforts to ensure that every Islander earns a livable wage and maintains a certain standard of living. A two-tiered minimum wage system does not accomplish either goal. Continuing to pursue such an objective is a reprehensible and shameful attack on low-wage earners," she adds.
"A two-tiered minimum wage is not the type of change to the minimum wage that would be most beneficial, effective or productive for the Island. Our union strongly believes that the province should re-focus its efforts on establishing a livable minimum wage for all Islanders."
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