Minimum wage still too low: B.C. Fed

B.C. Federation of Labour wants another dollar added to bring the wage to $11.25 next fall.

B.C. Federation of Labour vice-president Irene Lanzinger and president Jim Sinclair speak to reporters at the legislature Wednesday.

VICTORIA – The B.C. Federation of Labour campaigned for four years for a $10-an-hour minimum wage, and that will be delivered May 1 when B.C.’s wage goes to $10.25.

But federation president Jim Sinclair visited the legislature Wednesday to tell the B.C. government it’s no longer enough. He wants another increase next fall to $11.25 an hour.

That rate is what is needed to keep up with Statistics Canada’s “low-income cutoff” (LICO), Sinclair told reporters.

Critics often use LICO as a measure of poverty, although the federal agency says it is not, since it is a relative measure that grows along with inflation and economic growth.

“Today the minimum wage is $9.50. That’s the second lowest in Canada, still,” Sinclair said. “Today, if we were at the LICO level, it would be at $11.25 an hour.”

Premier Christy Clark announced in March that the minimum wage would be raised for the first time in a decade, and the $6 an hour “training wage” was abolished. It went from $8 to $8.75 on May 1, and jumped another 75 cents on Nov. 1. A third 75-cent increase takes effect next May 1.

After the increase to $11.25, Sinclair said government should meet with business and labour to decide how the minimum wage should keep up with the cost of living.

B.C. Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid met with Sinclair before his news conference Wednesday.

“Our promise is, starting in 2012, to look at our policy,” MacDiarmid said afterwards. But she would make no commitment beyond next May, adding that government policy should aim to make B.C. “a great place to work, and a great place to be an employer.”

Sinclair also blasted what he called Clark’s “dumbest idea,” a lower wage for staff who primarily serve alcohol. That went to $8.50 an hour May 1, $8.75 on Nov. 1 and is set to go to $9 an hour in May 2012. Clark said that measure is similar to the minimum wage system in Ontario, and it reflects higher tips earned by pub, lounge and cabaret workers.

“There’s no rationale for this form of discrimination,” Sinclair said. “It doesn’t apply to anybody else who works in industries where they get tips.”