Changes won’t solve minimum wage issue

Linking rate to inflation must be accompanied by an established baseline

In announcing changes to the wages of the lowest paid British Columbians it’s clear the provincial government got it half right.

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond announced that the minimum wage will be rising by 20 cents in September to $10.45 an hour, with all future increases tied to the B.C. consumer price index. Those increases will be determined in March with the wage hike to take effect in September, giving business time to adjust accordingly.

Linking the minimum wage to inflation is a good idea to provide certainty for both business and workers as well as eliminate the temptation of using people’s livelihood for political game.

Unfortunately, in linking the minimum wage to the consumer price index the government is acting on the assumption that the current rate is the definitive model. And the government’s argument fails under the weight of that one flawed assumption.

While the provincial government consulted with business owners prior to announcing the changes, the same courtesy doesn’t appear to have been extended to those representing low-income earners.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said the announcement guarantees that hundreds of thousands of British Columbians will continue to live in poverty for years to come. Her call for a $15 minimum wage won’t be realized until 2034 under the government’s current plan.

People often have a tendency to downplay minimum wage workers as a small segment of the society primarily made up of students looking to make a few extra bucks. But the facts show otherwise: more than 120,000 British Columbians earn the minimum wage, and almost half of those are over the age of 25.

While the government has obviously listened to the concerns of business, those British Columbians struggling to put food on their family’s table will continue to have their voices go unheard.