Ontario's minimum wage needs to go up to $14 an hour as soon as possible, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas told a government advisory panel on the issue today.
"We believe that work must pay enough to lift people out of poverty," Thomas told the Wynne government's Minimum Wage Advisory Panel. "Our union supports the call to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour, or approximately 10 per cent above Statistics Canada's Low Income Measure."
Workers in jobs that pay poverty wages are providing a subsidy to their employers, he said.
"Usually subsidies go the other way — we ask richer people to help poorer ones — but in the case of poverty wages the individuals with the least wealth and power in the workplace are subsidizing those with the most."
Thomas dismissed claims by employer groups that a higher minimum wage would cost the province jobs, noting that "even though the minimum wage is among the most-studied topics in economics, there is no consensus on what the minimum wage does to employment.
"Workers' production of goods and services is the source of profit for all employers," he told the panel. "So when employers cut staff, they are also cutting production and sales, and therefore their own source of income. In truth, if higher wages squeeze profits, most employers will take steps to boost sales, not reduce them."
Thomas said boosting the minimum wage could easily result in a net increase in jobs as low-income workers spend the extra money in their communities.
"Low-income workers spend a much greater proportion of their income than high-income workers, and they spend it close to home. They don't save money, they don't buy international mutual funds, and they don't go on trips to the Bahamas. They spend their money locally on the things their families need.
When you put money in the pockets of low-income people, you put it directly into local economies. And that is exactly what Ontario needs right now."
Read the complete text of Thomas's remarks at www.opseu.org/minimumwage.
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas (613) 329-1931