Most people living in poverty are working, and the majority of poor children in BC live in families with parents who work in the paid labour force. Increasing the minimum wage is part of rebuilding the economic security of British Columbians and tackling rising inequality. Some workers including piece-rate farm workers, resident caretakers, and live-in camp leaders, will continue to have less protection as their employers are given exemptions to the minimum wage. Earnings must be high enough to enable people to make ends meet; it’s simply unacceptable to leave people in poverty yet we continue to do so.
As minimum protections for workers have been eroded and enforcement of these minimum working conditions has been slashed, the worst impacts are on vulnerable workers including:
- low-wage workers, working at minimum wage or close to minimum wage
- workers with temporary, gig and precarious jobs
- temporary foreign workers, undocumented workers, and workers with other precarious immigration status
Revisions announced in April 2019 to BC’s Employment Standards legislation and the BC Labour Code will make a real, positive difference to workers and their families across British Columbia, and there is more work to be done to make sure that it is enforced and that all workers can access their rights.
What’s in the government’s TogetherBC Plan?
- Increases to the minimum wage annually until it reaches $15.20 by 2021.
- Elimination of the exemption to the minimum wage for liquor servers.
- Investment of $14 million over the next three years to the Employment Standards Branch.
- Introduced five days of paid leave for workers experiencing domestic and sexual violence.
What Priority Actions are We Still Fighting For?
- Accelerate minimum wage increases to meet the cost of living for all workers with no exemptions and index it to the cost of living.
- Restore the coverage and enforcement of employment standards including increasing the Employment Standards Branch budget to implement a program of pro-active investigation and enforcement.
- Become a living wage employer of provincial government staff and contractors; and encourage other employers to adopt the living wage for families.
A “living wage” is one of the most powerful tools to address poverty. It is not the same as the minimum wage, which is the legal statutory minimum all employers must pay. It reflects what a family needs to bring home, based on the actual costs of living and raising children in a specific community. A living wage allows families to escape poverty and severe financial stress, participate fully in their communities, and ensure healthy child development.
For more information, please read the following resources:
- ABC plan policy brief
- “What’s in the Government’s Plan? What are we still fighting for?” poster
- The Living Wage for Families Campaign Website
- BC Poverty Reduction Coalition submission on Employment Standards (BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, March 2019)
- Working Poverty in Metro Vancouver (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office, the United Way of the Lower Mainland, and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, June 2016)
- Submission to Minister of Labour Harry Bains for Immediate Action on Employment Standards Reform (BC Employment Standards Coalition, September 2018)
- Workers’ stories of exploitation & abuse: Why BC Employment Standards Need To Change (BC Employment Standards Coalition, July 2017)
- Information about the Fair Wages Commission
- BC Poverty Reduction Coalition’s submission to the Poverty Reduction Consultations
- Long Overdue: Why BC needs a poverty reduction plan