BC's minimum wage: it's everybody's issue

The start of November marks an important date in all our calendars. It was six years ago this month that BC's lowest paid workers got a raise.

The start of November marks an important date in all our calendars. It was six years ago this month that BC's lowest paid workers got a raise. In the intervening six years inflation has jumped by a 13%, average weekly earnings have increased by 15%, and BC's economy has grown by over 20%. Despite that growth, BC's minimum wage has remained unchanged. In fact, if you only considered the impact of inflation, BC's minimum wage has actually declined in real terms over the last six years.

According to Statistics Canada a quarter of a million British Columbians earn incomes that place them below the poverty line. These are the same people for whom BC's minimum wage has become a symbol of how our province's so-called booming economy is not working for them.

As post-secondary educators, we see first-hand the impact of BC's minimum wage policy. For thousands of our students, every day involves the complicated juggling of work and schools assignments. Few have the luxury of being able to devote themselves exclusively to their post-secondary education because skyrocketing tuition fees force students to work part-time to cover the ever-rising costs of their post-secondary education. Many of these students face the reality of minimum wage jobs, a reality that leaves little capacity for making ends meet.

Inevitably, the juggling act leaves our students stressed and struggling to stay ahead of assignments and deadlines. At a time when students should be able to explore a world of learning and possibilities, our students are left to contend with poor pay, mounting debt, fewer support services in their post-secondary institution and the prospect of no immediate help from the provincial government.

The labour movement in BC is hoping to change that reality. Along with student groups, community organizations and over 30 municipal councils from around the province, the BC Federation of Labour is lobbying the provincial government to concede the obvious: BC's lowest paid workers need and deserve a raise. The campaign has already gathered over 40,000 signatures on a petition as pressure to increase the minimum wage builds momentum. More support for the increase is being identified as the campaign begins to focus its lobby efforts on individual government MLAs

The Campbell government is trying hard to ignore this growing lobby effort. However, recent polling data on this issue shows close to 80% of British Columbians think that BC's minimum wage should be increased. How much longer can the provincial government try to deflect this pressure for unchanged is unclear, but the as this campaign broadens its reach, Premier Campbell and his Cabinet will be forced to acknowledge that their minimum wage policy makes no sense.

Is Premier Campbell prepared to change course? As the pressure to increase the minimum wage continues to rise, he may ultimately have no choice.

For more information contact:
Phillip Legg
Communications and Policy
Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC
plegg@fpse.ca
(604) 788-2877

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.