Minimum wage increase “falls short,” says N.B. Federation of Labour

    The wallet of international student Alberto Chavez, after being asked about the increase of the minimum wage. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

    On Jan. 29, the government of New Brunswick announced that the province’s minimum wage will increase to $15.30 per hour from the current rate of $14.75 on April 1. 

    Both the Common Front for Social Justice and the Federation of Labour are pleased that the minimum wage continues to increase, but agree that there is still more to be done.  

    “In one way, we agree and we support indexing the minimum wage, but it’s still not enough to cover basic needs,” said Janelle LeBlanc, the Common Front’s provincial coordinator. 

    “Any increase to the minimum wage is certainly welcome news, however, we feel that it really falls short,” said Daniel Legere, the president of the N.B. Federation of Labour.  

    The increase was calculated by the province’s annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is mandated by the government and put in place every April 1. CPI is a measure of inflation that compares the cost of a fixed basket of goods and services over time. Last year, New Brunswick’s inflation reached 4.06 per cent. 

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    Emmanuelle Jackson, a student at St. Thomas University, believes that the increase will have a positive impact on students within the province. 

    “I think it’ll be a good increase … It’s very hard for anyone without a college education to get into a job that isn’t minimum wage right now, so it’s difficult to find jobs that are financially sustainable,” said Jackson.  

    The Common Front and Federation of Labour also have the same goal of driving the province to improve the lives of workers, both setting their sights on increasing New Brunswick’s minimum wage to $20 per hour. 

    “These increases will take far too long to get us to $20 per hour and by the time we get there we will probably need the minimum wage to be $25 per hour at that point, so we would certainly invite a more aggressive raising of the minimum wage,” said Legere.  

    Herb Emery, the Vaughan Chair in regional economics at the University of New Brunswick, agrees with continuing the consistency of increases to the minimum wage.  

    “I think it works out for both employers and employees if you can have a system where it’s a predictable rate of increase, everybody can account and budget for it,” said Emery. “If minimum wages could be to simply index the consumer price index and automatically increase quarterly, that wouldn’t be bad for either side because it would maintain the purchasing power of the minimum wage.”  

    Despite the substantial increase that they are pushing for, Legere said that the Federation of Labour still has hope that they can reach their goals. 

    “I see hope in the fact that we keep talking about the issues and we’re putting forward solutions. The other part from our perspective is the interest of workers in non-unionized workplaces to join and form unions while demanding better,” said Legere. 

    LeBlanc also looks positively towards the future of workers’ rights within New Brunswick. 

    “We seem to think that we don’t have power, but it’s not true. We actually do have a lot of power and we can make changes if we put pressure on the government,” said LeBlanc. “It can get discouraging, but I’m confident that we can change things and the more people get involved the better.”