Minimum wage should be raised now, before thousands of high school
students get summer jobs, says McGowan
EDMONTON, May 20, 2011 /CNW/ - Before he steps down to pursue the leadership of the PC Party,
Employment and Immigration Minister Lukaszuk should make good on the
promise he made to raise the minimum wage, says the Alberta Federation
"Lukaszuk's first act when he became minister a year and a half ago was
to freeze Alberta's minimum wage," say AFL president Gil McGowan. "At
the time, he said he would review the practice of automatically
indexing the minimum wage and only consider an increase when the
provincial economy returned to health. Well, the review is done and the
recession is over. It's time for the Minister to live up to the promise
he made to Alberta's poorest workers."
At $8.80 per hour Alberta, Canada's wealthiest province, has the second
lowest minimum wage in the country - after B.C. But B.C. premier
Christy Clark recently announced that the minimum wage in B.C. will be
increased to $10.25 per hour in May 2012.
McGowan says the time is right for Lukaszuk to increase Alberta's
minimum wage because the K-12 school year is almost over.
"Thousands of high school students will soon be applying for jobs and
many of those jobs will pay minimum wage or close to it. Before
Lukaszuk himself considers applying for a new job, that of premier, he
should raise the minimum wage and help out those students," says
McGowan says both of Lukaszuk's conditions for increasing the minimum
wage have been met.
First, the Alberta economy has clearly returned to good health.
Investment is up and unemployment is down. Retail sales are up nearly 6
per cent from last year. And the province's average weekly earnings
rose by nearly 7 per cent and are the highest in the country.
"Clearly, we can afford to give Albertans earning minimum wage a raise,"
Lukaszuk's second condition was that a review be conducted of Alberta's
system for indexing and increasing the minimum wage. This was done last
summer and fall by a special all-party committee of the Legislature. In
December, the committee recommended that the minimum wage immediately
be increased to $9.05 and that a system for regular cost-of-living
increases be implemented.
"Despite the committee's recommendations, the silence from the Minister
on this issue has been deafening," says McGowan.
Other jobs that will be left undone if Lukaszuk resigns include: making
change to improve workplace health and safety; extending basic rights
to agricultural workers; and fixing the Temporary Foreign Worker
program (which Lukaszuk has admitted himself is dysfunctional).
"If Lukaszuk wants to be taken seriously as a leadership candidate,
you'd think he'd want to finish at least some of this work before
giving up the reins at the Employment and Immigration department," says
McGowan. "Increasing the minimum wage would be a good place to start
and an important legacy to leave."
The AFL is Alberta's largest labour organization, representing 145,000
unionized Alberta workers.
SOURCE Alberta Federation of Labour
For further information:
Media Contact: Gil McGowan, president, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888