Today's announcement by the provincial government that B.C.'s minimum wage will reach $15.20 per hour on June 1, 2021 is disappointing, both to the BCGEU and to the 20 per cent of B.C.'s workers who make less than $15 per hour. We think that the provincial government should take action to reduce poverty and inequality in our province by increasing the minimum wage to $15 immediately, as we stated in our submission to the Fair Wages Commission.
British Columbia has a strong economy, but also Canada's highest cost of living, and extreme income inequality. Alberta and Ontario, with lower costs of living, will reach the $15 minimum wage on October 1, 2018 and January 1, 2019. BC's workers will have to wait an additional twenty-nine months – until June 2021 – to break the $15 barrier. It is unfair for the provincial government to allow hundreds of thousands of British Columbians to work full-time, full-year and remain below the poverty line. British Columbians deserve better.
We remain hopeful that the next report from the Fair Wages Commission, expected next month, will end a discriminatory system that allows for specific groups of workers, including farm workers and liquor servers, to earn less than the minimum wage. These individuals are highly vulnerable, and we expect the government to extend today's schedule of wage increases to all workers.
Along with this much-needed increase in the minimum wage, it is important that the provincial government puts the resources in place to make sure employers are following the schedule of wage increases, and that workers are not cheated by employers in other ways. This means that more staff and funding are needed for the Employment Standards Branch to do proactive monitoring and enforcement of the implementation of the new minimum wage.
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