A number of employer organizations have criticized Ontario’s plan to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour, saying the increase could cause job losses and economic hardship.
“We are shocked and appalled that the government is broadsiding small business owners with a 32-per-cent increase in the minimum wage within only one-and-a-half years,” said Julie Kwiecinski, director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.
“Small businesses, who don't share the larger profit margins of big business, will be forced to make difficult choices,” she added.
Ontario announced yesterday that it would be increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next 18 months, as part of sweeping changes to labour laws.
The new rate will be phased-in gradually – rising from the current figure of $11.40 to $11.60 in October. Then, the government plans to bump it up to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and then up to $15 the following year.
Premier Kathleen Wynne revealed the new rate alongside a slew of other reforms including ensuring equal pay for part-time workers, increasing vacation entitlements and expanding personal emergency leave.
“Our plan takes dead aim at the challenges that confront us in this new, uncertain world,” she said. “It puts fairness at the heart of all we do.”
According Wynne, ten per cent of Ontario’s workforce currently makes the minimum wage and 30 per cent make less than $15 an hour.
“That's millions of people, many of them supporting a family on a wage that just doesn't go far enough,” she said. “They're raising children, saving up for their education, wondering if they'll ever be able to get ahead on the monthly budget, let alone own a home.”
The proposed changes are in response to the government-commissioned Changing Workplaces review which found that that new technology, a shrinking manufacturing sector and fewer union jobs have left approximately one-third of Ontario's 6.6 million workers vulnerable.