Courier editorial – Note to our government; a $2 per week wage increase is nothing to celebrate

In two days, on Thursday, April 1, the minimum wage in New Brunswick will rise from $11.70 to $11.75 per hour. In a speech from the legislature last week, Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus said the increase “will help address significant challenges with recruitment and retention of these important workers,” referring to those in the human services sector (family support workers, community residence and special care home workers) who will see the increase.

In fact, when Bockus mentioned the April 1 increase, the legislature erupted into clapping and cheers, as what I can only assume was the provincial conservative party patting themselves on the back for one of the most insulting wage increases I’ve ever witnessed in any of the four Canadian provinces, and one European country, I’ve lived in.

To erupt in celebration at a $0.05 cent increase is laughable at best, appalling at worst.

Bockus goes on to say these jobs are those which care for some of the provinces “most vulnerable” residents, and that the government values the “contribution” those in the human services sector make to caring for the provinces seniors.

And I agree. Working in a nursing home, care home or facility; these are jobs I simply could not do and I admire those who can. But do the math and this wage increase that caused members of the provincial legislature to burst out in self-congratulation will amount, on average, to an additional $2 per paycheque, and I don’t think there’s much worth celebrating in that.

This wage increase – and I am loathe to even call it that – is a slap in the face to those who do the very jobs the increase will apply to.

I’d challenge any MLA to exist on what a full-time job at $11.75 per hour amounts to and then have the gall to claim the increase will improve anyone’s life or the ability to attract more personnel to those jobs; jobs that pay exponentially more in other provinces. In Ontario, according to Indeed, a personal care worker earns on average $25.32 per hour. In Quebec, it’s $20.55. In Nova Scotia, it’s $18 to $20. In New Brunswick, it’s $14.70.

The real rub is unless a person is currently making minimum wage, their employer isn’t obligated to increase their pay at all. Maybe what the provincial government should be doing is less self-congratulation and a little more work towards creating pay equity within the sector as compared to the rest of the country. Want to attract and retain top quality employees to care for our vulnerable? Start paying them a deserving wage, increase that wage more than $2 per week and stop congratulating yourselves for the pathetic effort.

In short, do better.

Krisi Marples