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Raise a win for minimum wage campaigners: BC Fed

B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said the minimum wage hike is a win for everyone who "stood out in the rain" to campaign for an increase.

"If you stick with it you can win sometimes," he said. "The message has gotten through that good wages are good for the economy."

The BC Fed campaigned for at least four years to have the minimum wage raised to at least $10 an hour, a position supported by the NDP.

"I take it an elections coming and our campaign has been successful," he said. "We'd won the debate."

Today Premier Christy Clark announced the minimum wage will go up in three 75 cent increments starting on May 1 and arriving at $10.25 an hour on May 1, 2012. She also announced the $6 an hour training wage will be eliminated, but people serving liquor will have a lower wage ($9 an hour on May 1, 2012) since they often get the bulk of their pay in tips.

Sinclair noted that $10 an hour won't go as far as it would have when the BC Fed started its campaign. "$10.25 isn't at the poverty level yet," he said. "This will help a small amount, but only a small amount."

Clark should have indexed the minimum wage so it goes up with the cost of living, just like the premier's salary does, he said. "If it's good enough for Christy Clark it should be good enough for the lowest paid workers in the province," he said.

Sinclair also criticized the new alcohol server wage, which Clark said was modeled on what's done in Ontario and Quebec. "The server serving milk gets the pay increase but the server serving liquor doesn't," said Sinclair. That servers get tips is a poor excuse, he said. "Customers pay the tips and the HST."

The NDP put out a press release calling the raise a partial victory. "It’s heartening to see today that the B.C. Liberals are willing to admit that they’ve been completely off side with British Columbians,” it quoted labour critic Raj Chouhan saying.

Chouhan called on the government to index the minimum wage to the cost of living, develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy and restore parts of the employment standards act the BC Liberals gutted in 2001.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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