Posted February 17, 2015
Two full weeks of working two part-time jobs just covers rent for Apryll Farmer-Testa, and feeding two teenage sons doesn’t come cheap, either.
“Budget? It’s not a word in our house,” she said. “It’s hard, because it’s our shelter, our food and our transportation … I want them to have what I had growing up — or even more.”
The Surrey woman was part of a downtown Vancouver rally in support of raising B.C.’s minimum wage from $10.25 to $15 an hour.
“It would change my life drastically,” said Farmer-Testa, who earns just a bit more than minimum wage.
Sunday’s event was organized by the social action group ACORN Canada and the B.C. Federation of Labour, and it highlighted how women are disproportionately affected by low wages in this province.
According to the B.C. Fed, 63 per cent of minimum-wage earners are women; that ratio increases to 70 per cent of workers between the ages of 25 and 54.
“Women bear the cost of low wages more than any other sector in our economy,” B.C. Fed president Irene Lanzinger told about 50 people.
“There are a lot of single mothers in this province living on minimum wage and struggling to raise their children, struggling to buy nutritious food, struggling to buy their children educational experiences that they probably can’t afford.”
Raising the minimum wage has been a priority for Lanzinger since she was elected last fall to lead the labour federation. The province’s current minimum wage is tied for fourth-lowest in the country.
Bus driver Mark Pampu was handing out flyers in support of a $15 minimum wage, and said that though he makes a good living now, he empathizes with those who are struggling to get by.
“There was a time in my life when I was making minimum wage and I was living on $10 an hour. It was difficult. I was only doing it for myself, I was single, so I can only imagine how hard it is for families to raise children and pay bills on $10 an hour,” he said.
The rally was held outside the office of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a group that has vocally opposed the proposed wage hike. The office was closed for the weekend, but the CFIB issued a press release warning of dire economic consequences if wages go up.
“A massive hike in the minimum wage to $15 would mean far fewer resources for small businesses to invest into hiring, training, and equipment. Many businesses would be forced to close,” said Richard Truscott, CFIB vice president for B.C. and Alberta.
The business group predicts such a wage hike would lead to the loss of between 54,000 and 196,000 jobs.
“A much better way of helping people working in entry-level positions would be to increase the basic amount someone can earn before paying personal income taxes,” Truscott said.
Lanzinger disputed the CFIB’s predictions of job losses, pointing out that unemployment has dropped since the last minimum wage increase, from 7.6 per cent in 2010 to 5.6 per cent today.
Article by Bethany Lindsay for The Province