C/O Yoohyun Park
What does the announcement of a minimum wage increase mean for the McMaster Community?
In 2017, Kathleen Wynne, previous premier of Ontario, stated that she wanted Ontario’s minimum wage to rise to $15 per hour by 2019. However, when the current Conservative government won in 2018, they promptly put a pause on this idea. Until now, approximately four years later, this idea finally became a reality.
It was also announced that the minimum wage would continue to increase in correlation with inflation once effective. The bill is currently going through the first reading, as stated on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website.
“For many Ontarians wages haven’t kept up with the increasing cost of living, making it harder than ever to make ends meet . . . I’ve always said, workers deserve to have more money in their pockets because they have worked hard and put in long hours. The least the government can do is ensure we’re making life more affordable for them,” said Doug Ford, current premier of Ontario, at a news conference in Milton.
In early October, minimum wage had gone from $14.25 per hour to $14.35 per hour. That introduction came with a lot of criticism as people felt that the 10 cent increase was not meaningful. In addition, given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, many claimed this change was disrespectful to essential workers and those struggling to make ends meet.
This history of a minimum wage in Ontario is extensive and complex. From the years of 1995 to 2003 minimum wage had been frozen at $6.85 per hour. From there it has increased for several reasons, whether that be political or to simply follow inflation. As it continues to increase, the political parties, researchers and people of Canada continue to debate their own views on the topic.
In 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development sought to identify the demographics of those earning minimum wage. At the time they found that one in three adults will be making minimum wage at the prime of their working career. This statistic includes the adults of McMaster University, especially those who work under the Student Work Program offered by McMaster.
Clara Rakovac, a second-year commerce student at McMaster, works at Mill’s Memorial Library as part of the SWP. She shared how she is assigned shifts that cap at 10 hours a week, where each hour she is paid $14.35. The idea of a minimum wage increase was good news to her.
Enisi Krasnica, a second-year biology student, works at the Health Sciences Library as part of the SWP. Krasnica explained how she also works at around a weekly 10 hour cap and is paid $15 an hour, which is one of the highest-paying SWP library jobs on campus. Though she is appreciative of the minimum wage increase, she also explained her reservations.
Students employed within the McMaster Student Union, the largest form of representation for undergraduate students, are also expected to be affected by the possible increase of minimum wage. John McGowan, the General Manager for MSU, explained how this increase would impact their operations. In this case, all part-time staff of MSU would notice an increase in wage.
“Historically, upon approval of the executive board, whatever the increase is to minimum wage — so I think this time it is 4.5% for non-food and beverage staff — we would take that increase and take it to the whole part-time staff wages grid. Not only do entry level positions receive the benefit, but so do other part-time staff members,” said McGowan.
As the announcement of an increased minimum wage comes forth, students are excited but critical of the new changes. The changes find their own ways to impact the McMaster community, students and administration alike. New discussions will surely emerge from the implementation of this new minimum wage, as happens whenever decisions impacting people’s entire lives are made.