Minimum Wage Update
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: Newsletters, Manitoba Local 306 /
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Minimum Wage Update

In August 2022, the Manitoba government announced that it would be raising the minimum wage to $13.50 per hour on October 1, 2022, to $14.15 on April 1, 2023, and to $15 on October 1, 2023. Then in March 2023, it revised that plan by announcing the minimum wage would be $15.30 on October 1, 2023.

Unionized workers have negotiated collective agreements, and in some cases the rapid rise in minimum wage from $11.90 to $15.30 in just one year presented a challenge and an opportunity. Unions always aim for starting wages that are more than minimum wage, but what should happen when minimum wage is higher than wages in the collective agreement?

Some, but not all, collective agreements describe what will happen when the minimum wage climbs above wages in the collective agreement. For others, the responsibility rests on the employer to make sure the collective agreement doesn’t violate employment standards by having a wage that is lower than minimum wage. In those cases, the union will usually try to influence the employer’s approach to solving this, but ultimately the employer is only required to make the collective agreement legal.

The big question the union gets is if minimum wage goes up, shouldn’t all employees get a raise at the same time? The short answer is no—although it would be nice! Minimum wage is really designed to protect the lowest wage earners.

To take the logic to the end point, one could say that if the lowest wage goes up, then the highest earners (CEOs) should also go up, and most of us wouldn’t support that. But one effect of raising the lowest wage in a collective agreement without raising the rest of the wages is that the gap between lowest and highest wages shrinks.

The fact is that high inflation has made it difficult for more Canadians than just minimum wage earners. It’s not wrong for more experienced workers to feel they should get a bump too, and it’s understandable if they feel their time in the workplace should be acknowledged through the wage grid.

In the end, it’s good news when workers are protected by minimum wages. And most experts agree that even at $15.30 per hour, it’s almost impossible to live on only 40 hours per week, even in the most affordable Canadian cities like Winnipeg.

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