Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer
In an effort to benefit nearly 400,000 British Columbians earning minimum wage, the provincial government has been annually increasing rates according to inflation by at least one dollar since 2018.
According to the Government of BC, over 20% of the province’s workers earn below $15 per hour — 61% of that number being people in couples who must provide for their families.
In an interview with The Peak, director of the labour studies program Kendra Strauss said the minimum income needed for a worker to meet their basic living needs in Vancouver amounts to “above $20 an hour.”
Because of this, she said $15.20 is a good start, but is still not enough to provide minimum wage workers a liveable payment. “The minimum wage [increase] is definitely an improvement, but it is not going to resolve the challenges for people who need to live off that wage.”
The advancement also applies to liquor servers, who were earning below minimum wage at $13.95 per hour in 2020. Liquor servers in BC received lower than minimum wage until the increase because of the tips supplementing their earnings, Strauss said.
She said situations like the pandemic — in which a predictable number of customers cannot be relied on — has highlighted issues associated with lower wage rates.
“It’s actually immigrant and racialized workers who are often most concentrated in low wage jobs. And they are people who may be trying to support a family on one or two minimum wage jobs within the household.”
She said large companies like McDonalds, Tim Hortons, or Burger King, who pay most of their workers minimum wage “can definitely afford to pay more because they profit from this low wage model.
“When we don’t pay people a living wage, we pay for the costs of poverty in other ways through other kinds of social programs,” such as income assistance.
Strauss said the government’s decision to increase minimum wage rates began as a result of the BC Fair Wages Commission, established in 2017 and previously chaired by SFU professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen.
She said the Commission looked at minimum wage in other provinces and found BC “had fallen behind relative to both the cost of living and other provinces.”
To rectify this, the Commission advised the government to match minimum wage with liveable wages and establish timelines which would eventually increase minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.
More information about BC’s minimum wage increase can be found here.