November 14, 2006

News release

NOLC calls for minimum wage increase

Instead of complaining about a so-called labour shortage, employers in B.C. and the Okanagan should take positive steps to attract and retain workers by paying them a decent wage, said Brad Dunlop, president of the North Okanagan Labour Council.

And a good place to start combatting the labour shortage through decent wages is by increasing the minimum wage and scrapping the training wage that discriminates against young workers, said Dunlop.

"Many employers and business groups are crying to bring in foreign workers and pay them a substandard wage," said Dunlop. That's what Kelowna's Windsor Manor has done.

"All workers, foreign and Canadian, deserve a fair wage -- and B.C.'s minimum wage isn't fair," he said.

The minimum wage was last increased in 2001.

"Even then, $8 an hour was a poverty wage," said the NOLC president. According to the Raise the Rates campaign, organized by a number of social justice groups, a full-time minimum-wage worker now makes only 80 per cent of B.C.'s poverty level.

"If government and the business community want people to work, they have to stop paying and promoting poverty-level wages," said Dunlop.

Earlier this year, SuperSizeMyPay.Net, a coalition of young workers and students working for an increase in the minimum wage, calculated that B.C.'s minimum wage has declined in real value over the years.

Their research found that the 1976 minimum wage in British Columbia would be more than $10.36 today if it had merely kept up to inflation.

At its last meeting, on Nov. 8 in Kelowna, the North Okanagan Labour Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $10, rising to $11 per hour in 2008 and indexed to inflation every year after that.

The resolution also calls for an end to the discriminatory training wage. Dunlop said a minimum wage increase would be good for the economy by putting more money in consumers' pockets.

Most minimum wage workers are not teens or other family members merely adding to an already healthy family budget. In May, B.C. Federation of Labour secretary-treasurer Angela Schira noted that 63 per cent of minimum-wage workers are women.

"Many minimum-wage workers are single parents struggling to feed their children," said Dunlop.

Dunlop also joins a growing chorus that includes Kelowna city council, calling for an increase to B.C.'s horrifically low welfare rates.

"People can't live on B.C.'s welfare rates. The welfare system is boosting homelessness," the labour council president said.

"This government has to take steps to fight poverty. Right now, its policies encourage poverty."

The North Okanagan Labour Council is the umbrella organization for unions in the North and Central Okanagan, representing approximately 10,000 union members. It holds general meetings monthly, with the next one set for 7 p.m., Dec. 6 at the NOLC office, 201A - 1358 St. Paul St., Kelowna.



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