Quebec minimum wage increase to $14.25/hr gets mixed reactions

The minimum wage in Quebec will be raised to $14.25 per hour as of Sunday, May 1, representing a 75-cent increase in the hourly rate.

The increase in the general minimum wage rate will benefit 301,100 people in Quebec, according to data from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity.

For tipped employees, the minimum wage will rise to $11.40 per hour, an increase of 60 cents.

It should also be noted that the minimum wage payable to an employee assigned exclusively to picking raspberries or strawberries is respectively $4.23 (+$0.22) and $1.13 (+$0.06) per kilogram, according to the labour ministry.

SMALL BUSINESSES HURT

Employers point out that this 5.56 per cent increase in the minimum wage represents additional costs of $237.1 million for businesses, which worries the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which notes that this new increase comes in a context of fragility of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), hit by rising costs.

The two years of health restrictions have left an average debt load of $108,000 per SME in Quebec, as well as sub-par revenues for a majority of them.

"The reality is that their capacity to absorb cost increases is not infinite," said François Vincent, CFIB's vice-president for Quebec, in a news release.

No less than 60 per cent of SMEs feel that cost increases are having a significant negative impact on their business, said the SME group, which has 95,000 members in all sectors and regions.

Vincent's said, "this will have a definite impact on entrepreneurs who will have no choice but to raise prices."

The CFIB believes that other solutions exist within the Quebec government to help employers offer better wage conditions to their employees, such as offering tax credits to SMEs or lowering payroll taxes.

WORKERS GETTING POORER

The Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec has a different view.

It says that the 75-cent increase in the hourly minimum wage is "irresponsible and insulting to the hundreds of thousands of workers who are living in poverty and losing more of their purchasing power every day."

"With its ridiculous increase in the minimum wage, the government is not only refusing to help these people get out of poverty, but it is watching them become poorer without flinching," said collective spokesperson Virginie Larivière.

She pointed out that this minimum wage increase does not even offset the effects of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which rose by 6.7 per cent from March 2021 to March 2022 in Quebec, "unprecedented in the last 30 years."

"Last November, the Quebec Food Banks reminded us that the number of people with employment income who used their services increased by 40 per cent due to the pandemic and high inflation," she said. "Everything suggests that the trend is not about to be reversed, and the government is washing its hands of it!"

Since last fall, the Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec, which includes 36 organizations, has been demanding a minimum wage of at least $18 an hour.

INSUFFICIENT, QUEBEC SOLIDAIRE

Alexandre Leduc, the Québec Solidaire representative for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, also criticized the Legault government's completely outdated vision of the minimum wage in Quebec.

"Every week, I come across businesses that post entry-level wages above the minimum wage," said Leduc. "These businesses have understood something that the government still doesn't: a viable minimum wage is a way to combat the difficulty of recruiting because it makes minimum wage jobs more attractive."

A month ago, Labour Minister Jean Boulet suggested that the minimum wage could exceed $15 an hour by 2023.

According to the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve MNA, the symbolic amount that has long been claimed is no longer relevant.

"Frankly! $15, we needed it five years ago. It's not a viable wage today," he said. "We've been talking about the cost of living crisis for months now. Does Mr. Boulet believe that people on minimum wage are immune to the increase in all basic goods? I have the misfortune to tell him that this is not the case and that today, a decent and viable minimum wage is $18 per hour."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 1, 2022.   

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