Friday, January 31, 2014

UPDATED: More On The Minimum Wage

There has been very much a predictable reaction from business to the Wynne government's decision to raise the Ontario minimum wage to $11 per hour as of June 1. Even though this modest increase will do little to lift the working poor out of poverty, the commercial sector is running about shouting that the sky will fall, prognosticating a loss of jobs as they take up a defensive position against something that will, they claim, eat away at their profits.

The following video from City TV offers a smattering of a debate over the issue; unfortunately, I no longer seem able to play video from the CBC, where much more detailed discussion has taken place, so this will have to do. Following the video, I turn to Joe Fiorito's latest observations about working poverty as his column today returns to the story of Doreen, whom I discussed yesterday.


As noted previously, Joe Fiorito has pointed out what a hardscrabble existence Doreen, a personal care worker, leads. Today, he adds to that portrait:

She said, “I broke my glasses last July. I can see, but fine stuff I can’t read.” You guessed right. She has not replaced her glasses. This is the kind of poverty that hurts deep in the bone, dulls the senses, and strangles hope. She has not stopped trying.

Compounding Doreen's problems are the expenses involved in keeping her qualifications current; she recently received a letter from one of the agencies for whom she is on an on-call list:

The letter advised Doreen that, if she wanted to stay active on the agency’s list and be eligible for work in the future, then she had to renew her first aid and CPR certificates.

Trouble is, the course preferred by that agency costs $115 and is only offered on weekends. Doreen works on the weekend for an elderly couple. What this means is that, in order to take the course and renew her certificate, she would have to cough up a day’s pay out of pocket to attend, and she would have to miss two days’ work on top of that.

There are more details about Doreen's travails in Firotio's piece, but I think you get the picture.

As I suggested yesterday, unless and until we are willing to put a human face on the working poor, their plight will never be addressed with any real justice.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne and business representatives have recently suggested that minimum wage increases are a blunt instrument with which to attack poverty, and that a guaranteed income might be preferable. The cynic in me suggests this could be yet another way that business wants government to subsidize their operations; should they ever express a willingness to give up some of the generous corporate tax cuts that have come their way over the past several years as a show of good faith, perhaps then I will take them seriously.

6 comments:

  1. More than just a face needs to be put on the working poor. The entire monetary system must change if the very concept of "working poor" is to eve become history. Here is my analysis of one take on the minimum wage increase: http://canadiantrends.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-magic-of-minimum-wage-and-inflation.html - Hope you'll give it a read.

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    1. Thanks, Richard. i will definitely check out your post. Thanks for the link.

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  2. I don't know, Lorne. A guaranteed "living wage" income might be preferable provided the numbers weren't gamed. I don't know but, then again, I see the world dissolving at my feet.

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    1. I really think both the desirability and validity of a guaranteed income would depend on its conception and execution, Mound. I would not want it to be a disincentive to work, nor would I want it to be a way of absolving the corporate sector of its responsibility to provide a living wage. Admittedly, I have done no research on the topic, but my 'spider sense' starts tingling when I hear some corporate vested interests approving of the concept.

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    2. The guaranteed income idea has been around for a long time. Yes, absolutely, it would absolve the corporate sector of paying a living wage. They would now have to pay a wage making it worth your bother to work. It would dramatically alter the equation. Some businesses see this as a bonus, they could pay even less than they do now. Some very crappy jobs will probably see the pay have to go up, because if people can walk away, they won't put up with bullshit.

      As for it being a disincentive to work, of course it would be. You wouldn't have to work just to live. It wouldn't be a luxurious life, but you would be ok. But people will still work. People like to have something to do. And people will want luxuries. It would eliminate the whole "just take any damn job already, why do you think you have dignity?" kind of incentive to work, though. Employers would have to convince people to come work for them, instead.

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    3. Thanks for your comments, Lightcastle. I especially identify with your comments about how people like to have something to do. This is something I feel strongly about, even in retirement. Hence the blog and volunteer activities.

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