featured Labour Poverty

Fight for 15 and Fairness: Minimum wage increase in Nova Scotia just a bad April Fools joke

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Today at noon some 70 people gathered on the steps of the Maritime Centre in downtown Halifax for a Fight for 15 rally. The Maritime Centre is where the offices of the Nova Scotia department of Labour and Advanced Education are located.

The occasion was the April 1 increase of Nova Scotia’s minimum wage to $11.55 per hour, for experienced workers. Clearly that’s not enough to live on.

There were speeches by Christine Saulnier, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Gary Burrell, leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, and Jackie Swain of the SEIU, a union that has been particularly active in the fight for 15. Poet and activist El Jones performed a spoken word piece.

Marleigh Smith, a member of the IWW, and a minimum wage earner, also spoke. They made some excellent points. This is what they said.

Marleigh Smith. Photo Robert Devet

I am here today as a minimum wage earner, I work for a minimum wage in this building. I am also an IWW member.  The IWW supports this campaign.

I am also here as a single mother. I am part of a demographic that is disproportionately affected by unemployment and poverty. Single parents make up a huge portion of the well over 100,000 Nova Scotians who live below the poverty line. Poverty rates in Nova Scotia are the highest in all of Canada. While child poverty rates are declining everywhere else, in Nova Scotia they are increasing!

Some of use have been born into low income families, others have just fallen on hard times, and because of circumstances beyond their control we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of poverty, a cycle that often is impossible to break out of.

Regardless of our circumstances we deserve to be able to afford to live. Regardless of our profession we all deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness in the workplace. And with that comes being compensated equitably and fairly for our labour.

When the minimum wage was implemented 80 years ago, its purpose was to insure that all workers could support themselves and their families and pay for all the necessities. The minimum wage has ever so gradually increased over the years, but it has become an arbitrary amount that doesn’t reflect inflation.

Reports `have shown that people in Halifax should be making $19 in order to live. The 55 cents increase that the Liberals have proposed will not even bring us close.

There are so many barriers that people face that prevent them from escaping poverty. We should and we will continue to fight to remove these systemic barriers.

While a $15 minimum wage will be a huge improvement, there is still a lot more we need to do to keep people out of poverty. We need affordable child care and affordable housing. We need an increase to income assistance and disability payments, We need to reduce tuition fees.

We still have  a lot to fight for, but increasing the minimum wage  is a huge step in the right direction.

For more information on the Fight for 15 in Halifax, see https://www.facebook.com/FightFor15Halifax/

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