On Oct. 29 the provincial minister of labour announced an increase in the general minimum wage on Nov. 1 to $9.50 per hour – an increase following another adjustment May 1 from $8 to $8.75.
There are three fundamental deficiencies in the government’s minimum wage policy:
1). The minimum wage is still too low; 2). The lower minimum wage for liquor servers is discriminatory; and 3). The exclusion of hand-harvesting farmworkers from the minimum hourly wage is discriminatory and out of date.
The minimum wage is too low by any objective measure such as the poverty line or measures of a “living wage.” The government’s refusal to increase the minimum wage by the rate of increase in the cost of living between 2002 and 2010 meant that minimum wage earners saw a decline in their real income by 16.5 per cent – one of the factors contributing to an increase in income inequality in B.C.
There are six provinces and territories with higher minimum wages than B.C. In addition, there is still no mechanism for predictable annual adjustments to the minimum wage.
Bowing to pressure from hotel and restaurant employers, the government introduced in May of this year a new lower minimum wage for liquor servers. The new liquor server rate was set 25 cents per hour below the minimum wage, and on Nov. 1 became 75 cents per hour below the minimum wage.
There is no rational or objective basis for this form of discrimination. Liquor servers are not the only service workers who receive tips and gratuities. And tips are not wages therefore employers do not include tips and gratuities in the calculation of CPP and EI contributions.
Farmworkers who hand harvest certain fruit, vegetable, berry or daffodil crops are discriminated against by being excluded from the hourly minimum wage. Instead their wage is based on an outdated schedule of piece work rates. This wage discrimination is compounded by the fact that temporary foreign workers who harvest the same crops are guaranteed an hourly minimum wage.
The provincial minimum wage discrimination against liquor servers and hand harvesters should be ended because it impacts on some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers in B.C. that are primarily women, immigrant, part-time, casual or seasonal workers.
B.C. Employment Standards for the Next Decade Coalition