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Labour Council reacts to minimum wage increase in Ontario

The North Bay and District Labour Council says the Ford government is wrongly taking credit for this October's legislated general minimum wage increase to $16.55 and had an obligation to announce the rise by April 1 anyway
In this file photo, North Bay and District Labour Council President Henri Giroux works the crowd at a protest in March 2022.

The North Bay and District Labour Council is rolling its eyes at an announcement from the Ontario government that it is increasing the minimum wage to $16.55 an hour on October 1. 

See related: Ontario minimum wage to increase to $16.55 per hour on Oct. 1

Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton added, “Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government is putting workers in the driver’s seat of their careers, and their lives. This latest increase is a fair and balanced approach that means more money in their pockets so they can support their families and continue building a stronger Ontario for all of us."

Labour disagrees with this characterization.

"So let’s be clear. There is no largesse on the part," of Premier Ford or Minister McNaugton, says Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers’ Action Centre. "The legislation stipulates that Ontario’s adult minimum wage will be adjusted by the rate of inflation to $16.55 effective October 1, and the Ontario government has a statutory obligation to publish that fact no later than Saturday, April 1." 

"With the higher cost of living, the rise in food costs, rent, fuel, thank goodness the workers fought very hard to win an annual cost-of-living adjustment, so we don't lose the minimum wage power," says NBDLC President Henri Giroux.

The government release states a worker making the general minimum wage and working 40 hours per week will see an annual pay increase of nearly $2,200. There were 942,400 workers earning $16.55 per hour or below in 2022, the majority of whom are women.

"Every year, the minimum wage rises in concert with inflation," adds Giroux. "The government is putting that out now so workers can all thank Mr. Ford and Mr. McNaughton. The government has an obligation to announce an October minimum wage increase by April 1. It's not something they are doing on their own, it's in the legislation. They have to do it."

Just over 40 per cent of workers at or below the current general minimum wage of $15.50 per hour are in retail trade and almost 25 per cent are in accommodation and food services. A government news release states the 6.8 per cent pay raise for low-income workers "builds on the government’s steady and predictable increases every year to help families offset the rising cost of living."

"Remember, back in 2019, Ford and Fedeli — who was finance minister at the time — left minimum wage at $14 per hour when they were supposed to bring it up to $15 per hour. They also cancelled the cost-of-living increase to the minimum wage for two years. Put that together, people today would have been making $17.99 an hour."

Giroux chalks the pushback against a higher minimum wage to corporate greed. "The majority of small businesses I talk to, they already pay their workers more than minimum wage. It's the big corporations paying minimum wage and casual workers, and installing self-checkouts that are crying about losing money for their shareholders."

In an ongoing fight, Giroux says back in 2021, labour groups called for the province to legislate paid sick days. As of March 31, Ontario ended its temporary paid sick days tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Giroux points to the advocacy being done by Justice For Workers, a group involved in the $14/$15 minimum wage discussion as far back as 2018, right around the time NBDLC took part in a protest outside a local Tim Hortons.

The government says this minimum wage increase builds on its work "to make Ontario the best place to live, work and raise a family," and recently introduced the Working for Workers Act, 2023, which, it says, if passed, will "provide ground-breaking protections for millions of workers in Ontario."

Ontario’s new minimum wage is the highest of any province in the country. For example, Quebec has a minimum wage of $14.25 an hour, British Columbia has a minimum wage of $15.65 an hour, and Alberta has a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The special minimum wage rates will also increase from $14.60 to $15.60 an hour for students under the age of 18, who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session or work during a school break or summer holidays; for homeworkers (those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers), from $17.05 to $18.20 an hour; and, for hunting, fishing and wilderness guides, from $77.60 to $82.85 per day when working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $155.25 to $165.75 per day when working five or more hours in a day.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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