Raise minimum wage to $14 per hour: Open letter from Ontario's RNs to Premier Kathleen Wynne

TORONTO, Jan. 28, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario government must make an essential investment in the province's health by raising the minimum wage to $14 per hour in the next provincial budget, Ontario's nurses say.

RNs know that an increased minimum wage will provide Ontarians with a pathway out of poverty and into good health. That's why the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) has issued an open letter urging Premier Kathleen Wynne to act on behalf of the province's 534,000 minimum wage workers.

RNAO has been advocating for a minimum wage increase since the rate was frozen at $10.25 in 2010, leaving many Ontarians to live below the poverty line. Despite reports the Wynne government may raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour, nurses know that $14 is a healthier hourly wage.

Read RNAO's letter to Premier Wynne:

January 27, 2014
Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281
Main Legislative Building
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Wynne,

Ontario's nurses urge you to increase the minimum wage in the next provincial budget to $14.00 per hour.

The minimum wage has been frozen since 2010 at $10.25 per hour. Nurses know this has had a serious, negative impact on minimum wage workers in Ontario. With rising cost of food, rent and electricity, a worker employed full-time on the minimum wage now has an income that is 19 per cent below the poverty line. It is unacceptable to us that someone working hard at 40 hours a week, on minimum wage, should still be living in poverty in a province as affluent as Ontario.

The province's 534,000 minimum wage workers deserve much better. The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) has a long and proud history of supporting increases in the minimum wage as a means of ensuring paid work is a pathway out of poverty. As nurses, we witness in our day-to-day work the indisputable link between poverty and ill-health, and we know that a living wage for minimum wage workers is sound healthy public policy. Indeed, an investment in Ontario's low wage workers is a positive and strategic investment in the health and well-being for the province as a whole.

Low income also has a huge impact on health outcomes and overall well-being. A study of health outcomes in Hamilton neighbourhoods revealed a 21-year difference in life expectancy between a high-income and a low-income neighbourhood that were five kilometres apart. This reality cannot be ignored as it comes at a high cost to Ontarians in the form of increased health problems, more emergency room visits, as well as higher hospital admission and re-admission rates.

Premier, the next provincial budget must include an increase in the minimum wage. We join the broad-based community movement, which is calling on you to raise the minimum wage to $14.00 per hour and index it to the rate of inflation. It's time for our government to make a real difference in the lives of minimum wage workers.

Warm regards,

Doris Grinspun, RN, MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), O.ONT., RNAO Chief Executive Officer
Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, RN, MN, RNAO President

cc. Hon. Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance
Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Hon. Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the New Democratic Party

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at www.RNAO.ca  You can also check out our Facebook page at www.RNAO.org/facebook and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RNAO

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

For further information:

or to arrange an interview with a nurse, please contact:

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Office: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209
mzych@RNAO.ca
www.RNAO.ca