“I thought that the working poor could take Premier Alward’s election promise to implement the recommendations from the Poverty Reduction Task Force to the bank,” says Michel Boudreau, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, “apparently I was wrong.”
On July 20th, 2011, the provincial government announced its plan to delay increasing New Brunswick’s scheduled minimum wage increase from $9.50 to $10.00 by six months. The increase was scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2011. The New Brunswick Employment Standards Act had included a number of scheduled minimum wage increases to bring New Brunswick’s minimum wage up to the Atlantic average. Increasing minimum wage to the Atlantic average was one of the recommendations made in the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan, a plan developed by the Poverty Reduction Task Force. Premier Alward, then leader of the official opposition, participated in the work of the task force.
“Minimum-wage workers were counting on that wage increase to bring them closer to the poverty line. Now they will need to wait another six months,” adds Boudreau. “The working poor had to wait several years for the political-will to bring their wages up to the Atlantic average. Now is not the time to back away from that commitment.”
According to Statistics Canada 32% of all minimum wage workers are between the ages of 25 and 54 (22% women and 10% men). Working full-time, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, a minimum wage earner currently earns $19,760 per year, below the low-income-cut-off of $22,229.
Twenty-two percent of New Brunswick food bank users are either workers or people laid-off and receiving employment insurance. “Current minimum wage levels are not even high enough to ensure the basic necessities of life,” says Boudreau.