Government urged to act now on minimum wage and ease poverty: Two-year delay in raising the level of pay for lowest earners “inexcusable,” says AFL

Alberta's poorest workers continue to endure unnecessary hardship and poverty thanks to a two-year delay in increasing minimum wage by the Alberta government.

"Alberta's minimum wage has been stuck at $8.80 per hour since April 2009," says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, the province's largest labour organization, representing 140,000 workers.

"More than a year ago, the government needlessly cancelled a scheduled increase to the minimum-wage level. That was unacceptable. Last fall, the Alberta Legislature Standing Committee on the Economy recommended an immediate increase to $9.05 per hour. The Minister of Employment and Immigration has ignored that recommendation. That is inexcusable."

McGowan called for the government to immediately adopt the $9.05 minimum-wage level and to restore annual increases to the minimum wage, based on the average weekly earnings index. He also called for the government to make a one-time bump to the minimum wage to $12.20 as the province's economy stabilizes, so low-income earners can make a living wage.

"We believe that anyone who works full time, full year in our province should earn a wage that allows them to stay out of poverty. The current minimum wage doesn't do that. There must also be a system that guarantees regular increases to prevent the minimum level from being eroded by inflation over the years," says McGowan.
The current minimum wage leaves a full-time worker at an income of $4,000 per year below the Low-Income Cut-off, otherwise known as the poverty line. With economists predicting food process will rise up to 15 per cent next year, things are going to get even worse for those earning low wages.

"Despite its wealth, Alberta has the second lowest minimum wage in Canada," says McGowan. "Increasing minimum-wage levels will not cost jobs. In fact, a five-year analysis of minimum-wage increases in Alberta in shows that employment actually increased in those occupations most likely to pay minimum wage, including retail sales, cashiers and clerks, food and beverage service and travel and accommodation retail services," he says.
"Last week, the world marked International Women's Day. Because women are disproportionately paid lower wages, it would be timely to make an immediate increase to minimum-wage levels. This simple step will ease poverty, including child poverty. Alberta can afford to do better and must do better," says McGowan.

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Media Contact:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)

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