Minimum wage hike in Nova Scotia?

Review committee recommends province bump minimum wage by 65 cents an hour by 2006

A minimum wage review committee set up by Nova Scotia is recommending the province increase the minimum wage by 30 cents an hour this year and another 35 cents an hour in 2006.

The committee wants to see the wage rise from its current rate of $6.50 hour to $6.80 on Oct. 1. A second hike would be made on April 1, 2006, to $7.15 under the proposal. The committee is composed of equal numbers of employer and employee representatives, appointed by Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Labour.

Under Nova Scotia law, a committee must conduct an annual review of the minimum wage and prepare a report to the government containing its recommendations. The government has until May 28 to respond to the recommendations.

21,900 minimum wage earners

According to the report prepared by the committee, there were 21,900 employees working for minimum wage in the province in 2004. That represents 5.6 per cent of the workforce.

The committee pointed out that employers, notably other low wage employers, tend to measure their pay scale against minimum wage. Generally, as minimum wage rises, so do other wage rates.

Therefore, an additional 37,600 workers could see an increase in pay. All told, that would mean that the 31.9 per cent of the workforce who earn between minimum wage and $8 per hour could be impacted by a minimum wage increase.

Committee calls on government to make changes to help working poor

The committee also wants the province to look at other ways to help the working poor, stating that a minimum wage hike alone won’t solve the problem. It said the costs of necessities and utilities, taxes on these items, an increase in precarious employment (casual, part-time, self-employment), lack of well paid jobs and the high cost of post-secondary education contribute to the concerns of the working poor.

“In addition to minimum wage, other strategies should help alleviate poverty: increases in the basic personal income tax exemption puts more money in the pockets of low income earners; education subsidies; affordable housing; and child care,” the report stated.

The committee conceded that such recommendations are outside its mandate, but said for minimum wage alone to address poverty effectively it would need to exceed the national average or perhaps even the highest minimum wage in Canada.

Nova Scotia’s minimum wage is currently tied with Prince Edward Island’s for the highest in Atlantic Canada. But compared to the rest of the country, Atlantic Canada lags behind everyone but Alberta.

Alberta currently has the lowest wage, at $5.90 per hour, while Nunavut workers enjoy the highest minimum wage at $8.50. For more information about minimum wage rates across the country, click on the related articles link below.

About the committee

The committee members were:

•Rick Clarke, president of the Federation of Labour;
•Tom Patterson, past executive director of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union;
•Sandra Rodd, president of S.J. Rodd Trading Ltd.; and
•Steve MacPherson, general manager of Jack Astor’s.

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