The move is expected to alleviate pressure under unsteady economic conditions
A new bill has been filed in Manitoba seeking to grant the government the authority to implement a higher increase in the provincial minimum wage.
Bill 44, or the Employment Standards Code amendment act (minimum wage), has been filed in response to the current uncertain and challenging economic conditions brought about by COVID-19, according to the provincial government.
"This legislation would make critical changes to the Employment Standards Code to permit larger increases to the provincial minimum wage under certain economic conditions," said Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services Minister Reg Helwer in a statement.
The current code stipulates that increases to Manitoba's annual wage rates are indexed to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price index (CPI). The minimum wage is then adjusted in proportion to the change in the previous year's inflation.
According to Helwer, while this method is effective under normal economic conditions, flexibility is still necessary under "extraordinary economic conditions to consider additional adjustments."
The government then stated in the bill that once CPI-measured inflation in Manitoba exceeds five per cent in the first quarter of a calendar year, Cabinet may be allowed to mandate a larger increase to the minimum wage.
"This change would provide much-needed support to hard-working Manitobans who have been burdened by soaring cost-of-living increases," said Helwer. "Manitobans have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and this legislation would relieve some of the financial strain they are experiencing due to rising food and fuel prices."
The bill comes as Manitoba's minimum hourly wage is set to increase by 40 cents to $12.35 on October 1 – which the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) criticised as the "lowest minimum wage in the country this year."
"It should have never come to this, where Manitoba is at risk of having the lowest minimum wage in the country. We think that Manitobans are worth a whole lot more than dead last," said the MFL in a statement.
According to the federation, taking immediate steps to boost the minimum wage is the "most significant thing" the government could do for low-wage workers.
It added that it will be making clear in the government's consultation that the increase should not be less than the living wage.
"The MFL will be making it clear that anything less than a living wage is unacceptable," it said. "No one should work full-time but still live in poverty. And all workers should be paid enough to meet their basic needs like rent, food, transportation, and clothing."