February 15, 2014

The Liberal Social Injustice Premier and The Fight for A Livable Minimum Wage

Last year, Premier Wynne said she wanted to be Ontario’s “social justice Premier”.  She said she would take action to increase social assistance rates and to raise the minimum wage. 

But her inaction on starvation level social assistance rates, and her decision to permanently embed a poverty level minimum wage, is earning her the title of Ontario’s social injustice Premier.

Wynne’s government is following other Liberal and Tory governments in Canada:  to drive down wages and living standards, attack labour and democratic rights, reduce taxes on the corporations and the rich, cut services and privatize, privatize, privatize.

No Friends in the Legislature

The Liberals have been all too happy to parrot the policies put forward by corporate employers and their lobby groups. This includes the Retail Council of Canada, which is supported by Toys ‘R’ Us, and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which represents Tim Hortons and McDonald’s.

The very modest $14 minimum wage being fought for by youth, labour, anti-poverty and social justice groups around the province, has no friends in the Legislature.  The NDP is non-committal.  The Tories would eliminate the minimum wage altogether if they could (in keeping with the right-to-work-for-less legislation they want for Ontario).   The Liberals want to make sure the minimum wage is wrapped in cement, never rising beyond the annual inflation rate. 

This is Austerity

That’s why Big Business supports indexing – it ensures that the minimum wage will never rise, that its real value will remain at 2010 levels.   Millions of workers in Ontario will be permanently stuck in deep poverty and insecurity while super-profits continue to rise, filling corporate coffers and lining the pockets of the 1%. 

Only the Communist Party supports the $14 demand, though it does not currently sit in the legislature – something voters may want to change in coming elections.

Feb 15th Raise the Wage action inside Toronto's Eaton Centre
A Living Wage

Can you live on $11 an hour?  $352 a week take-home?  That’s what the government is proposing.  But you wouldn’t be able to eat and pay the rent (unless you live in a rooming-house). 

Could you live on  $14 an hour?  $548 a week take-home? 

Many are forced to live just above the basic poverty line.

But you’ll never own your own home, and you’ll pay more than half your wage for rent.  You won’t be able to afford child care if you have children, and you’ll never send them to university.  You won’t have  nice holidays, you’ll rarely eat in a restaurant, and you likely won’t have a car.  But you’ll work very hard, probably at more than one job, and you’ll likely be laid off several times in your work life.  And when you retire, you’ll have no pension or savings.     

A Substantially Higher Minimum Wage

Many organizations fighting for a $14 minimum wage think it’s too low.  So do we.  While supporting the $14 campaign, because it will take a mass united campaign to win this fight, we think the minimum should be pegged at  $19, and indexed from there. 
The minimum wage is not charity, it’s the lowest legal wage an employer can pay a worker.

Governments speaking for employers will peg it as low as they can.  Governments representing working people will peg it much higher to raise the floor on wages for all workers.  People’s needs or corporate greed – that’s the choice here.

Higher wages mean more purchasing power, and that’s economic stimulus –  a good thing in a flagging economy.

Good Jobs and Better Wages = a People’s Recovery

Good jobs with good pay mean real economic growth in industry, manufacturing, construction, service sector and public services – a good thing for working people and youth.  And good for Ontario.

Big Business and their right wing governments have bullied the public with the mantra that corporate tax cuts – and now wage cuts – create jobs.

But the estimated $15 billion in corporate tax cuts, plus corporate tax rate cuts that make Ontario the lowest corporate tax jurisdiction in the industrialized world, have generated the highest levels of youth and long-term permanent unemployment in decades.  Real unemployment is close to one million, and youth unemployment is twice as high as the provincial average.  Permanent, full-time, and well-paid manufacturing and industrial jobs have been replaced by part-time, precarious, minimum wage jobs located in the retail and food industries.   A whole generation is being abandoned to corporate profiteering and greed.

Raise Corporate Taxes – Tax the Rich

Meantime, the biggest corporations are sitting on $750 billion in dead capital – much of it tax cuts – that could and should have been in the public treasury, for public investment in job creation and in an emergency program of jobs for youth;  in a substantially higher minimum wage and fixed incomes, in quality, universal education and healthcare,  affordable housing and childcare, and in policies and programs where people’s needs trump corporate greed.

Mass Action and the Coming Election

A provincial election will be called within weeks, before minimum wage legislation is passed.

Important issues like the minimum wage, jobs and job losses, accessible education, affordable housing and rents, climate change, the environment, and sustainable development, equality rights, democracy, and social justice need to be on the agenda.   So does the Tories’ ”right-to-work-for-less” legislation that threatens all workers – young and old.

Escalating mass protests and actions leading up to the election can put these issues on the agenda and  lead to a better result for workers and youth on election day.

Prescription for a People’s Recovery

You can check out our 10 point Prescription for a People’s Recovery at  www.communistpartyontario.ca.  Please take a look and tell us what you think.
Working people, youth, and the unemployed can count on the Communist Party and the Young Communist League to continue fighting for working people – and for real and fundamental social change – before, during and after the election.  Another Ontario is possible, urgent, and worth fighting for.

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