Wage debate rages
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 1, 2017|
Tuesday’s announcement of major labour changes has drawn mixed reviews from Haliburton County residents.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced on May 30 that the general minimum wage will rise to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and then $15 on Jan. 1, 2019. There’ll be annual cost of living increases after that.
Other major changes include: equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual, seasonal and temporary agency employees doing the same job as full-time employees; expanding personal emergency leave to include an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers; ensuring at least three weeks' vacation after five years with a company and making employee scheduling fairer, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time.
In making the announcement, Wynne said, “The economy has changed. Work has changed. It’s time our laws and protections for workers changed too. Too many families are struggling to get by on part-time or contract work and unstable employment. And no one working full time in Ontario should live in poverty. With these changes, every worker in Ontario will be treated fairly, paid a living wage and have the opportunities they deserve.”
Local reaction was swift.
Aaron Walker, head chef at McKecks, posted on his Facebook page that “the drastic minimum wage hike will either close our doors or force us to lay off half our staff, this is not economic development.”
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey tweeted, "Small businesses would have adapted to a gradual increase in the minimum wage. This will be a negative for small businesses, our main employer."
But workers currently making the $11.40-an-hour minimum wage had a different response. Victoria Hawley told the Highlander, “That’s very exciting for me, and I’m sure a lot of other minimum wage workers, to hear.”
However, Hawley acknowledged, “I don’t want it to put a strain on small business owners, though, so I hope it works out to be a win-win situation for everyone.”
CPA, Hugh Nichol, told The Highlander small retail businesses with limited profit margins will be impacted the most. But he said it’s hard for minimum wage earners, whom he calls the working poor, to pay their bills and get ahead in life. He said these people will spend the extra income.
Visit The Highlander’s Facebook page to find out what readers have to say about this issue.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.