No April Fool’s joke, minimum-wage is going up by 15 cents

On April Fool's Day the minimum-wage will rise by 15 cents.

The Newfoundland government has raised the minimum-wage by 15 cents as part of its new plan.

Melissa Wong

For 30 years, Donna Canning worked in many minimum-wage jobs in various Newfoundland communities. So the news that the minimum wage would soon increase was of great interest to her.

“I guess it is good for people who are working minimum-wage jobs,” Canning said while working at  Personally Yours by Things Engraved at the Avalon Mall. “There are a lot of minimum-wage jobs in the province, but I do feel it should be higher.”

Many people and businesses are pleased with how the minimum-wage is increasing, although some groups have issues with certain aspects of the change.

The Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour recently announced that the minimum-wage would increase annually each April, based on the Consumer Price Index. Based on this new formula, the first change to the hourly rate will take effect on April 1, 2018, resulting in a 15-cent increase. To keep up with inflation, the minimum-wage would not be lowered if the Consumer Price Index were to decrease.

Brian Farewell at his office talking about minimum-wage.
Brian Farewell 

Brian Farewell, a representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, is not impressed with the modest increase.

“$11.15 is too low to have any impact,” said Farewell. “If it were inflation you were trying to capture I think it’s a start, but it is not an even playing field. You just cannot start at $11 and put on an inflation cost. The gap is too much to overcome.”

Nancy Healey, chief executive officer of the St. John’s Board of Trade, disagreed with Farewell, saying 11.15 an hour is good in the context of Newfoundland’s struggling economy.

“I have six grandkids. I see how hard they work, and it is just sad to see how little they secure by putting in their 40 hours a week.”

Despite any disagreements, both agreed the minimum wage should be increased each year, based on the Newfoundland’s Consumer Price Index.

“Any increase is good; I just don’t think it is going to have the impact that is required.” Farewell said. “I have six grandkids. I see how hard they work, and it is just sad to see how little they secure by putting in their 40 hours a week.”

The Board of Trade agreed with this plan because it will provide Newfoundland businesses with stability.

“I think for the business community, it provides some certainty to what the minimum-wage is supposed to be each year,” Healey said. “Businesses need certainty to make a plan. In the past, the minimum-wage would be adjusted, and there would be no indication how the government arrived at the figure that it did, and now tying it to the CPI brings predictability that businesses would like to see.”

The 15-cent increase will be coming this April as Newfoundland tries to keep up with inflation. Healey said the Newfoundland businesses can absorb the cost. However, Farewell said the Consumer Price Index should only be a starting point.

“It’s a Band-Aid, not a solution,” Farewell said as he nodded his head.

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