Minimum wage splits community
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | May 25, 2017|
Victoria Hawley works a minimum wage job in Haliburton and thinks an increase to $15-an-hour would be a really positive thing for many county workers.
“It would lift the financial burden from their shoulders,” Hawley said in a Wednesday interview.
Although she is a university student working a summer job and living at home, she is still paying rent and related costs for a London apartment.
She says she’s gained a lot of respect for people in the county working full-time, minimum wage jobs, year-round.
“It is really disheartening. You work 40 hours a week and get excited about payday but when you get your pay cheque it is just gone. It barely covers expenses.”
The issue of a proposed minimum wage increase is proving both sensitive and divisive in the community.
The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce is warning the province against changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations and Employment Standards acts - including a $15 minimum wage. However, workers such as Hawley, currently paid the general minimum wage of $11.40-an-hour, disagree as do some Highlander readers in today’s Eye on the Street (see page 7).
The local chamber issued a media release May 15 saying it had partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in writing Premier Kathleen Wynne to warn against potential changes to both acts.
Chamber president Jerry Walker said, “These sweeping changes could seriously impact job creation and the health of the local economy in the Haliburton Highlands. We need to get the message out that the proposed changes would discourage investment in Ontario, thereby discouraging investment and diminishing economic opportunities ...”
Richard Koroscil, the interim-president and CEO of the OCC, added, “We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth. We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for changes’ sake.”
The Changing Workplaces Review Final Report contains 173 recommendations. It’s not just about minimum wage, either. There’s talk of increased paid sick days, three weeks’ vacation instead of two after five years of work, and enhancing protection to the most low-paid workers and those with vulnerable jobs.
“We need to find a way to help people catch up,” Wynne told an audience in Sudbury this week.
On the streets of Haliburton, Kasara McKay said the proposed increase “is a good thing. It would make it easier to survive.”
Ashley McAllister, also of Haliburton, said, “The cost of living is higher now, it’s a different time. A higher minimum wage would hopefully make things a little easier.”
But another local employee, who did not want to be identified, said she fears if local employers are forced to raise wages, they may turn around and cut her hours.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.