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B.C. tying minimum wage increases to inflation permanently through new law

Minimum wage will rise to 65 cents to $17.40 on June 1 for most eligible workers
Minimum wage workers in industries such as food and accommodation will see their hourly earnings rise to $17.40 on June 1. (Black Press Media file photo)

The provincial minimum wage will go up with inflation every year but never down under a new law, which Labour Minister Harry Bains tabled Monday (Feb. 26).

Bains also announced that the minimum wage will rise by 65 cents to $17.40 on June 1, an increase of 3.9 per cent, consistent with B.C.’s average rate of inflation in 2023. Last year, it had risen by 6.9 per cent to $16.75, again reflecting average inflation rates for the previous year.

Some 130,000 out of 2.5 million workers earned minimum wage last year, according to Bains, who noted that B.C. has gone from having one of the lowest minimum wages in Canada to the highest in the country.

“We made a commitment to tie minimum-wage increases to the rate of inflation to prevent B.C.’s lowest-paid workers from falling behind,” he said. “(Today), we are enshrining that commitment into law.”

Bains said the new legislation means that the average inflation rate of the previous year will determine future increases. “This will provide certainty (and) predictability for both workers and employers,” he said. He added that deflation would not mean a lower minimum wage. It would remain at its current level, he said.

Bains said government reached the figure for 2024 after hearing from the Fair Wages Commission, an independent commission advising his ministry, and consulting with businesses, workers and unions.

“The one thing, very clearly, they (staff) heard from businesses, especially small businesses, was that businesses want predictability (and) gradual increases, not the way it used to be,” he said.

Professions currently earning minimum wage in B.C. include individuals working in agriculture; cosmetics; retail; restaurants and accommodations; and the food industry.

Other professions with the minimum hourly wage as starting point include various types of industrial labourers, but also home childcare providers; early childhood educators and assistants; post-secondary teaching and research assistants; and white-collar jobs such as receptionists, web-developers and programmers.

However, most workers in those industries start in jobs that pay already more than minimum wage. For example, the average hourly wage in the accommodation and food services sector for Jan. 2024 was $21.39, an increase of 2.8 per cent. This said, the average hourly wage for B.C. was $36.24 for Jan. 2024, an increase of 6.7 per cent from Jan. 2023, with the average weekly pay being $1,317.31 for Jan. 2024.

According to the labour ministry, about 71 per cent of employees earning minimum wage in 2022 or less were over the age of 19 and 62 per cent were women. The ministry also noted that many of the employers paying the minimum wage are large corporations and not small businesses with 49 per cent of minimum wage workers employed by large organizations with 100 or more employees.

The increase in minimum wage will come into effect on June 1 for most, but not all eligible workers. Workers earning piece rates picking 15 different crops will see their wages go up on Dec. 31 to ensure crop producers will not have to adjust wages in the middle of harvesting seasons.

B.C. joins eight other jurisdictions in Canada, who are basing their minimum-wage increases on annual changes to the inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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