緊急呼籲提高最低工資至每小時14元


《多倫多星報》專欄作家Bob Hepburn認為,增加安省最基本工資,是公平和公正的方式來幫助省內最低薪的工人。

2007年3月22日,安省當時的財政廳長Greg Sorbara邁出了大膽的一步,向省議會提交上調最低工資為每小時$10.25的財政預算案,以幫助省內的貧窮工人。

Sorbara這一舉動令人驚訝,因為在宣布預算案前幾個月,他不斷對省民說,最低工資固定在每小時8元,僱主不能承擔任何上調,任何調整都會把數以千計的低薪工作置於風險中。

Sorbara調高基本工資的決定,不但幫助全省數以千計的工人,更鞏固了他是安省近幾十年來最有愛心的財政廳長的聲譽。

Sorbara發表財政預算案時說,我們以堅定的信念採取這些步驟,安省的新經濟力量應該為工人提供公平。

他又說,政府認識到定期增加最低工資,是幫助低收入者重要的部分。

自2010年起,政府凍結最低工資,這是不顧過去四年通脹增加10%的事實,其他很多費用也增加,例如電費加幅更高。

去年7月,省長韋恩(Kathleen Wynne)指派六人小組檢討最低工資。韋恩應該立刻幫助窮忙族,而不是繼續在等待和猶豫不決。這些工人越來越落後,他們需要薪水來改善生活水準,而不是凍結他們的薪金。

這樣做的話,韋恩和現任財政廳長應該在3月的財政預算案中實行提高最低工資至每小時14元。

同時,新民主黨領袖賀華絲(Andrea Horwath)應該承諾支持調高最低工資,就算自由黨選擇類似Sorbara在2007年預算案中分三年調整工資的模式。新民主黨的支持極為重要,因為保守黨領袖胡達克(Tim Hudak)反對任何調整工資。

像胡達克一樣,很多商界領袖和右翼智庫的經濟學者,如Fraser Institute ,強烈反對調高最低工資,他們投訴這會傷害安省在全國和全球的競爭力,以及會減低創造新工作的速度,特別是初級職位。

然而,這樣的論據是錯誤的,因為安省大部分最低資的工作是在建築和服務業,例如酒店和餐館的工作,是不能外判到較低工資的國家。

支持最低工資時薪14元的論據很簡單:這是公平和公正的方法來幫助最貧窮的安省工人。

現時大約50萬安省工人,每9個人中的1個人,賺取每小時10.25元的最低工資。他們很多打兩至三份工,薪金剛足夠為他們及家庭支付房租和購買食物。每小時10.25元,每周工作40小時,薪金扣款後,稅前年薪約20,800元,這正在貧窮綫附近。

最近,一群醫生和醫療保健提供者在省議會外,慷慨激昂的呼籲提高工資時強調, 研究顯示低薪工人比其他工人遭受更多疾病和傷害。

一篇觀點強而有力題為《醫生的命令:提高最低工資, Doctor’s orders: raise the minimum wage》的文章,最先在網站healthydebate.ca 發表,繼而在社交媒體流傳。多倫多家庭醫生Ritika Goel強調,研究顯示健康問題在低工資和高收入者之間的巨大差異。

Goel表示,安慰的語句和處方可能有幫助,但最後我們所需要的是制度上的改變,這是時候提出可行的東西:提高最低工資。

很明顯,安省的貧困工人現時就需要政府的幫助,現在是時候結束他們等候增加最低工資。

正如Greg Sorbara2007年所說,這樣才公平。

資料來源: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/01/15/an_urgent_call_for_a_14anhour_minimum_wage_hepburn.html


An urgent call for a $14-an-hour minimum wage: Hepburn

Increasing Ontario’s basic pay is a fair and just way to help poorest-paid workers in the province.

By: Bob Hepburn Politics, Published on Wed Jan 15 2014

On March 22, 2007, Ontario’s then-finance minister Greg Sorbara took a bold step toward helping Ontario’s poor workers by tabling a provincial budget that raised the minimum wage to $10.25 an hour.

The move came as a surprise because Sorbara, who has since retired from elected politics, had spent the months before the budget telling Ontarians that employers couldn’t afford any increase in the minimum wage, then pegged at $8 an hour, and that any raise would put thousands of low-paid jobs at risk.

But in deciding to raise the basic pay Sorbara helped hundreds of thousands of workers across the province and solidified his reputation as one of the most caring finance ministers Ontario has had in decades.

“We take these steps in the firm belief that Ontario’s new economic strength must provide fairly for working people,” Sorbara said in his budget speech.

“The government recognizes that periodic increases in the minimum wage are an important part of helping those with low incomes,” he added in the detailed budget papers accompanying the speech.

Since 2010, the government has frozen the minimum wage. That’s despite the fact that inflation has risen about 10 per cent in the last four years, with many costs such as electricity rates increasing even higher.

Last July, rather than doing the right thing and pledging to boost wages, Premier Kathleen Wynne deployed a common political stalling tactic and appointed a six-person panel to look at minimum wages.

Instead of continue to wait and dither, Wynne needs to help the working poor now. These workers are falling further and further behind. Instead of freezing their pay, they need wages that provide a better standard of living than they now get for their long hours of work, even if it is only a few dollars an hour.

To do so, Wynne and current Finance Minister Charles Sousa should raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour, effective in their coming March budget.

At the same time, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath should pledge to support an increase, even if the Liberals opt to phase it in over three years as Sorbara did in his 2007 budget. NDP support is critical because Conservative Leader Tim Hudak opposes any increase at this time. Like Hudak, some business leaders and economists from right-wing think-tanks such as the Fraser Institute strongly oppose raising the rate, complaining it would hurt Ontario’s ability to compete nationally and globally and would actually slow the rate of jobs being created, especially entry-level positions.

That argument is flawed, though, because most minimum-wage jobs are in construction or service industries, such as hotels and restaurants, and can’t be shipped off to countries where workers earn a fraction of what Ontario employers pay.

The argument in favour of a $14-an-hour wage is simple: it’s a fair and just way to help the poorest workers in the province.

Currently, some 500,000 Ontario workers earn the minimum wage of $10.25. That’s one out of every nine workers in the province. Many of them must work two or three jobs just to pay the rent and buy food for themselves and their families. At $10 an hour, a worker putting in a full 40 hours on the job earns $20,800 a year, before taxes and payroll deductions. That’s right near the poverty line.

However, many low-paid jobs, such as cleaning and store clerks, offer only part-time work. That’s not enough to lift these workers out of poverty.

In recent months, anti-poverty activists and organizations have stepped up efforts to convince Wynne to end the freeze and boost the minimum wage to $14 an hour.

At Queen’s Park on Tuesday, a group of doctors and health-care providers made impassioned pleas for a higher wage, citing research showing that low-wage workers suffer more illnesses and injuries than other workers. And in a powerful opinion article titled “Doctor’s orders: raise the minimum wage” that first appeared on the website healthydebate.ca and spread wildly through social media, Toronto family physician Ritika Goel cited research showing huge differences in health issues between low-wage and high-income earners.

“Do we want to live in a society where we accept that people living in poverty will have a higher risk of losing their children, getting cancer and taking their own lives than those who have more?” Goel wrote.

“Comforting words and prescriptions might help, but at the end of the day, what we need is systemic change. It’s time to prescribe something that works: an increase in the minimum wage.”

Clearly, Ontario’s working poor need the government’s help now. They have waited four years since the minimum wage was last raised and with each passing year they slip further behind. It’s time to end their wait.

As Greg Sorbara said in 2007, it’s only fair. Bob Hepburn’s column appears Thursday. bhepburn@thestar.ca