In Ontario, the fight for a $15 minimum wage will soon become a reality.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced that Ontario’s minimum wage will rise to the $15 per hour mark by January 2019, phased in with a $14-per-hour increase at the start of 2018.
“While exports and business investments are increasing and the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, the nature of work has changed,” states the press release from the Ontario Liberals. “Many workers are struggling to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work.”
In her announcement on Wednesday morning, Wynne noted that “people are working longer, jobs are less secure, benefits are harder to come by, and protections are fewer and fewer. In a time of change like this, when the very nature of work is being transformed, we need to make certain that our workers are treated fairly.”
The announcement makes Ontario the second province to adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage. Last October, Rachel Notley’s NDP government in Alberta announced that the minimum wage would rise to $15 per hour by October 2018, just months before Ontario is set to adopt the same rate.
It also signals a huge victory for the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement, which has been advocating for a $15 minimum wage for several years.
In addition to the increase to minimum wage, the Liberal government is also moving ahead with an impressive package of labour reforms designed to help lower-income workers. Employers will be legally required to pay part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees the same rate as is paid to full-time employees doing the same work. As well, all workers will be entitled to two paid emergency leave days, and must be paid for a minimum of three hours work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours.
Serving wage, currently set at $9.90 per hour, will rise to $13.05 per hour by 2019.
The impact is significant. The Province notes that more than 25 per cent of all employees in Ontario will see their wages rise as a result of the minimum wage being increased. This will be especially important for women and marginalized groups, who are more likely to work minimum wage jobs than their male, white counterparts.
That the Wynne Liberals are announcing an increased minimum wage as they round the corner towards an election year is not a surprise. They also recently announced the beginnings of a provincial pharmacare plan, that would provide drug coverage to those below the age of 25. This perhaps signals a shift for the Liberals: with support for left-wing progressivism on the rise—the Democratic Socialist Alliance has seen surging numbers among young people in the United States, for instance—their commitment to a $15 per hour minimum wage suggests that the Liberals are shifting left after an at-times tumultuous term in office.
“These changes will ensure every hard-working Ontarian has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, in a press release. “Fairness and decency must be the defining values of our workplace.”