Quebec’s minimum wage will drop from $13.50 to $14.25 on May 1

MONTREAL — The minimum wage in Quebec will increase from $13.50 to $14.25 an hour starting May 1.

The Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, made the announcement on Friday.

The increase affects around 301,000 workers, including 166,000 women, in sectors such as retail and restaurants.

For tipped employees, the minimum wage will increase from $10.80 to $11.40.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, the minister said he was meeting his goal of keeping the minimum wage at around 50% of the average hourly wage. The average hourly wage is expected to be $28.47.

Boulet said a minimum wage of $14.25 an hour is “a good balance” between the various economic and social factors that need to be weighed.

“We must take into account the impact that the pandemic has had on several small and medium-sized businesses in Quebec, which have had to face extremely important issues in terms of maintaining or increasing their economic growth,” said Boulet. .

“It must also be important enough to encourage work. At the same time, it must not cause people to drop out of school. I think we have struck a good balance.”

STEP BY STEP

The major labor organizations in Quebec, which for several years have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $15, have since raised their demand to $18 an hour. They claim that $18 an hour is the minimum to live with dignity.

Asked about this, the minister said he preferred to go in stages. From $14.25 per hour on May 1, 2022, he believes he can raise it to $15 per hour on May 1, 2023, given the province’s economic strength.

Ontario already raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour on January 1.

Boulet argues that Quebec still has the best disposable income in Canada, thanks to its social safety net, subsidized childcare services and social solidarity tax credit, among other things.

In addition, labor shortages in many sectors of economic activity have already put upward pressure on wages. Many employers have had to increase the wages they pay their employees or improve their working conditions in other ways, either to retain them or to attract them.

A Slap IN THE FACE

“Obviously it’s not enough. It’s a bit of a slap in the face for low-income earners,” said Virginie Larivière, spokesperson for the Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec, a member of the Minimum18 coalition, in an interview.

“We have a labor shortage. Employers keep telling us that the government must do something to help employers find workers. However, salary can be a clear indication of what it takes to entice people to go to work,” Larivière said.

The Minimum18 coalition campaigns for a minimum wage of $18 an hour to lift people out of poverty.

“At $14.25, you’re way off the mark, even if you have a year-round job,” says Larivière, “given recent increases in the price of groceries, gas, housing and other items.

“THIS WILL HURT” SMALL BUSINESSES

“It is certain that it will hurt businesses. We are in a situation where the majority of businesses are below their normal income because of COVID-19, ”said the vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business of Quebec, François Vincent.

“And that’s on top of an average debt load of $100,000 per small business and payroll taxes,” he said. “We believe the government should help small businesses, including reducing payroll taxes.”

Vincent said he was “relieved” that the increase did not reach $18 an hour, as demanded by the Minimum18 coalition.

He said it would have been “disastrous” for small and medium-sized businesses.

This Canadian Press report was first published in French on January 14, 2021.

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