Prior to the call for the federal election, the British Columbia Federation of Labour had begun a campaign to raise the minimum wage in BC to $15 per hour.
The South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council is wholly supportive of this initiative and will be working to engage all working people in this endeavour.
The provincial Liberals did, recently, increase the minimum wage by 20 cents an hour or a total of $1.60 per day. The present minimum wage is now $10.45. That daily increase in not enough to buy a cup of coffee at most retailers serving coffee.
The government also said they would tie annual increases to the cost of living increases year over year. Unfortunately, all this does is institutionalize poverty in our province by ensuring that there will never be an opportunity for the minimum wage to actually become a living wage.
In the central Okanagan a living wage for a family of four is in the $16 to $18 range. A living wage is defined as a wage that would position working families at a level just above the poverty line.
It is time, here in the Okanagan, if we are going to attract and hold on to young working families to increase the minimum wage closer to, if not actually to a living wage. We are seeing student enrollments declining in Okanagan Skaha School District to a point where the Board of Education is discussing severe measures to close schools. The Okanagan is becoming a place that is hostile to young families due to low wages, high housing costs, and the high costs of living.
Now is the time for employers in our region to step up to the plate and recognize that having workers in servitude positions is unacceptable. Usually their employment is only part time and they have to work multiple jobs just to survive.
If an employer is unable to afford at least the $15 minimum wage level then that employer should not be hiring workers but operating their businesses on their own.
The South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council invites workers in our region who are not earning a living wage to work with us to convince the provincial government to make this necessary increase to the minimum wage.
Brent Voss, president
South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council