SACKVILLE, N.B. (CUP) — A New Brunswick labour group is calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $10/hr for all jobs that fall under federal jurisdiction.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) made the recommendations to the commission which is reviewing Part III of the Canada Labour Code.
“It is in fact unacceptable that the current federal legislation has as minimum hourly wage of the provincial standards, especially since New Brunswick is the second-last province in Canada with its weak minimum wage of $6.30 per hour,” said Kathryn-Ann Leger at the public hearing in Moncton, NB, on Monday October 24.
The NBFL has found that the increase in the cost of living since 1976 has not equaled the rise in the minimum wage. According to a report released by the government of Nova Scotia in February 2005, the purchasing power of minimum wage is 25 per cent less than it was in 1976. The NBFL argues that if the increases in minimum wage were consistent with the rise in the cost of living, minimum wage would be slightly more than $9 per hour today.
The organization believes that making the changes in minimum wage at the federal level will set a model for other provinces and establish a benchmark across the country. This, said Leger, will also help to combat out-migration from the Atlantic region.
“It’s because there are greener pastures out west,” said Leger. “We suggest that people won’t leave if they can make a decent wage in the Maritimes.”
The Canada Labour Code (CLC) covers all jobs that are of an international or inter-provincial nature such as railways, highway transport, broadcasting, aircraft operations, banks, first nations communities, and undertakings declared to be generally advantageous for Canada such as uranium mining and atomic energy.
Section III, the section under review, deals with labour standards such as hours of work, minimum wages, holidays, termination of employment practices, and provides for inspectors to enforce compliance with the code.
Approximately 10 per cent of employees in the Maritimes are covered by the federal code rather than provincial codes.
According to Mount Allison professor of economics and Canada Research Chair in Canadian Studies, Craig Brett, the proposal could cause more problems than it solves. He notes that, over time, increases in the minimum wage have contributed to lower overall employment.
“It seems that in the short run, say in the first year after a minimum wage goes up, there are very few, if any, jobs lost,” said Brett, but that “after three or four years, enough employers have either changed the way they do business, or have gone out of business altogether, to cause a noticeable effect of higher minimum wages on employment.”
“For those people who keep their jobs, this would be great,” said Brett.
The CLC has not been reviewed since its adoption in 1965. The commission’s mandate is to make recommendations for both legislative and non-legislative ways of modernizing and improving the relevance of federal labour standards. Its final report will be ready in June 2006.