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$15/hour by 2021 keeps workers in poverty for too long, community advocates urge strong action in BC’s poverty reduction plan to fill the gap

(British Columbia) The BC government’s announcement to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour is good news for low-wage workers in BC but the long timeline will continue to keep workers in poverty for too long.

Following the recommendations from the first Fair Wages Commission report, the government will increase the minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15.20 in 2021.

“BC has the highest working poverty rate in Canada so increasing the minimum wage is part of rebuilding the economic security of British Columbians and tackling rising inequality but the 420,000 people currently earning less than $15 will still be struggling for years,” says Trish Garner, Community Organizer of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. “It’s simply unacceptable to leave people in poverty yet we continue to do so.”

The Fair Wages Commission report itself states that no one among the presenting employers “felt that it was possible to live on the minimum wage.” Workers and community advocates presenting to the Commission brought that reality to life with stories of the hardships and the impacts on worker’s health, family, and community.

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition has been calling for an increase to $15/hour by January 2019 in partnership with the BC Federation of Labour, the Living Wage for Families Campaign, and many others.

Other provinces are moving more quickly with Alberta on a timeline to reach $15 this year and Ontario set to get to $15 in 2019.

“We can and need to do more here in BC. Without the increase to $15 this year or next, we need to see strong action in BC’s poverty reduction plan to bring down the cost of living. We look forward to seeing significant investments in housing and childcare in the upcoming budget, and then more in the poverty reduction plan,” continues Garner.

The provincial government is currently holding community consultations throughout BC for the development of the poverty reduction plan.

You can read the Fair Wages Commission’s first report here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/237/2018/02/Report-1_BC-Fair-Wages-Commission_Jan-2018.pdf

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For more information, contact: 
Trish Garner, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (BCPRC)

trish@bcpovertyreduction.ca / 604-417-8885

Christine Mettler, BCPRC Okanagan Regional Coordinator, Kelowna

christine@bcpovertyreduction.ca / 1-778-821-0766

Laura Bennett, BCPRC Northern Regional Coordinator, Prince George

laura@bcpovertyreduction.ca / 1-250-301-7971

The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition aims to see the introduction of a bold and comprehensive poverty reduction plan from the government of British Columbia that would include legislated targets and timelines to significantly reduce poverty, inequality and homelessness.

More information about the provincial government’s poverty reduction consultations can be found here: http://bcpovertyreduction.ca/take-action/povertyreductionstrategy/

 

Background Information:

The schedule for minimum wage increases is:

  • June 2018: $12.65/hr.
  • June 2019: $13.85
  • June 2020: $14.60
  • June 2021: $15.20

Approximately 1 in 4 workers in BC, 421,400 people, earn less than $15 an hour, and they are predominantly women and racialized:

  • 62% of minimum wage earners are women and 59% of workers earning less than $15/hour are women
  • In relation to precarious employment, women are 40% more likely than men to working multiple part-time jobs
  • New immigrants, racialized people, and indigenous people are over-represented in low-wage work and face a significant income gap

In contrast to the view that low wage workers are teenagers still living at home working part-time just to earn some extra money, the reality is that many of them are trying to support families. Of workers earning less than $15/hour:

  • 78% are 20 or older
  • Two thirds do not live at home with their parents and 76% are not students
  • Over half work full-time and over a third have worked in the same job for more than 2 years so these are long-term positions
  • 56% are the head of their household
  • 47% have children under 24 and 11% are single parent families
  • 14% or 69,600 of these workers are over 55