April 1, 2011

On the Announced Increase to the Minimum Wage

Young Communist League BC Provincial Committee
March, 2011

The Young Communist League British Columbia Provincial Committee welcomes the recently announced increase to BC's dismally low minimum wage. At the same time, we note that the increase is far from adequate and does not represent a change in policy or direction on the part of the BC Liberal Party.

Any increase to the minimum wage is undoubtedly positive in terms of the immediate economic situation of hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom are youth, who are currently working for wages that put them well below the poverty line. We note that action around the minimum wage issue has ebbed in recent times, it was the work of the BC labour movement, especially the young workers movement, which applied pressure to the anti-worker, anti-youth Liberal government around this issue and stimulated public outrage around the Liberal's shameful wage freeze. We are proud that some of our members were part of that work as well.

However, the minimum wage increase is designed to protect the interests of the BC Liberal Party's corporate backers. The increase is much lower than needed and is spread out over the course of more than a year; $8.75 this may, $9.50 on November 1st, and $10.25 in May 2012. But a worker would need to earn no less than $11.11 today to merely straddle the poverty line, and with inflation that number will increase even more by the time minimum wage workers achieve $10.25 next Spring. Keep in mind that this is merely the poverty line. An actual living wage would be around $18.81 in the Metro-Vancouver area, or $18.03 in Victoria. To make matters worse, the Liberal government has introduced a "server’s wage" which will put those who serve liquor on a second wage tier where they will make only $9 by next May. The Liberal strategy is one of keeping BC's workers, youth, and students, at sub-poverty level wages in order to ensure tidy profits to their corporate masters.

In this respect, it is clear that the minimum wage increase is no more than a public relations stunt by a new Liberal leader who is trying to re-brand and re-legitimize her party in preparation for the next round of elections. Clark's wafer-thin claims about a change in Liberal policy and "putting families first" are belied by the fact that she has the very same policies of her predecessor which led to his dramatic decline in voter support and eventual resignation. As the Communist Party's recent statement indicated, Christy Clark merely represents "the same club led by a different smile and a different gender."

The Young Communist League supports the ongoing efforts of young workers to fight for better wages, employment standards, and workplace safety. We demand an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $16 per hour and the elimination of the server’s wage. We oppose all forms of tiered wage systems such as "training" or "student" wages. Ultimately believe every worker deserves a living wage.

The BC Liberal Party will never offer a real alternative to the legacy it has left during the Gordon Campbell era. We call on youth, students, workers, left and progressive forces, and all those negatively affected by the results of Liberal corporate rule to come together and fight for a people's alternative to the anti-worker, anti-youth, and anti-student legacy of the BC Liberal Party.

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