Labour Day thought: raise the minimum wage

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Labour Day is a celebration of workers. For me, it remains an important day on the calendar, both as a celebration of what has been achieved and a reminder that there is still work to be done.

The day is certainly a celebration by, for, and of, members of unions and other organized labour groups. In St. John’s, for example, NDP MHAs and other members join with the District Labour Council for the afternoon festivities.

But in addition to celebrating the ongoing solidarity of the broader movement, and reminding ourselves of the victories both recent and from years past, we also take note of the progress we have yet to make and the struggles that remain.

In the past year, for example, we were very happy to see government enact the whistleblower legislation we have been demanding since 2007, when a PC premier first promised it.

The legislation may not be perfect, and it isn’t everything we wanted, but it is a major step forward.

We continue to speak up for workers’ health and safety in numerous areas, ranging from helicopter flights to presumptive cancers.

Our most extensive campaign right now, launched in April of this year, is for fairness for the lowest-paid workers in the province.

In this, we have had enormous support from our brothers and sisters in organized labour.

Nobody understands more than a union member the importance of paying fair wages.

Newfoundland and Labrador workers who earn the minimum wage have not received an increase since 2010.

Nobody reading this letter needs me to tell them what has happened with the prices of groceries, electricity and other necessities in the past four years.

Government appointed a review committee to make recommendations, then proceeded to ignore all the recommendations from its own committee.

The NDP introduced a private member’s motion asking government to adopt the recommendations, and both Liberal and Tory MHAs voted down the motion.

In May, we launched a petition to bring the question to the people of the province.

We will bring that petition to the House of Assembly when it re-opens this fall, and we will see if the thousands of signatures will change the minds of the MHAs in the other two parties.

It is impossible to exaggerate the great reception that petition has received from the people of the province.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians understand basic fairness, and they know that it is not fair for working people to be unable to afford the necessities of life.

One business operator in one of our smaller towns said to me, “Sure, why wouldn’t I sign it? Yes, I’m an employer, but my employees and I buy our groceries at the same store. I know what they’re dealing with.”

Our caucus is hosting a town hall on the minimum wage Tuesday, Sept. 9 at St. Teresa’s Parish Hall on Mundy Pond Road in St. John’s.

We invite anyone who is able to come and share their stories and give us their opinions.

Happy Labour Day!

Lorraine Michael

Newfoundland and Labrador NDP leader

Organizations: District Labour Council

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Mundy Pond Road

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Recent comments

  • Charles Murphy
    September 01, 2014 - 11:22

    LOL...Really, its not raising the wage is going to do it. But cutting taxes, that where the problem is too. Ok, look at its this way, everyone's got a raise tomorrow, what do suppose would happen? taxes go up, rent, food, clothing. Tell me about how much money would we have in our pocket's then? Our leader's can't " Continue " on making mistake's, then turn around, and pick our pocket to pay for their mistake.

  • Lorraine Michael
    August 29, 2014 - 17:12

    I invite readers to come to the town hall on Sept. 9 and learn facts about the impact of increasing minimum wage.

  • Doug
    August 29, 2014 - 14:28

    The Minimum Wage Review Panel recommended "the increase should be preceded by at least six months notice to stakeholders and the public". The NDP ignored that altogether and asked for an immediate change without any notice. Shows how little they care about the impact of on small businesses

    • Emanuel
      August 29, 2014 - 15:44

      Like the six month's notice employers give to employees? If you can't pay living wages, you have no business being in business. Besides, who is the Minimum Wage Review Panel?

  • Fred
    August 29, 2014 - 09:37

    Geoff. You are living in a dream world. Everyone would like more money but money doesn't just grow on trees. Someone has to create and produce it. Profits have to be made for the hard work put into creating and producing wealth. Maybe you should start up a company and pay big wages for the workers just to sit around and have money.

    • Geoff Chaulk
      August 29, 2014 - 10:13

      Fred (no last name, of course)...there's already so much wealth (and profit) in our country that poverty can be eliminated by better sharing the existing wealth/profit made in our country. You have simple-mindedly bought into corporate dogma which keeps some people very rich, and some very poor .

  • Fred
    August 29, 2014 - 09:30

    Great idea raise the minimum wage and put more people out of work. Only the taxpayers can afford fat-cat wages of civil servants.

    • Carl Marks
      August 29, 2014 - 10:27

      I assume that, in an effort to keep people in work and ensure profits (in which you admit you should have no share, as they are needed to produce wealth) you are willing to work for minimum wage. I mean how hard can it be, since the job of workers is "just to sit around and have money?"

  • Geoff Chaulk
    August 29, 2014 - 07:44

    Right on Lorraine! The working poor should expect a living wage like all workers. Also, lets not forget the poorest of our poor, those who are in receipt of income support. Our poverty reduction strategy would be a success if the poor simply had more money in their pockets to address their basic needs - food, clothing and shelter - its that simple.

    • Dianna K. Goneau Inkster
      September 02, 2014 - 22:42

      I just submitted a petition for better provincial funding of equipment and supplies for people with diabetes in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The petition is also available on the Facebook page Diabetes Advocacy and on the website with the same title. What has this issue got to do with the minimum wage debate. In Ontario, people whatever their income can get access to an insulin pump, some sticks and prescription drugs to keep the complications of diabetes under control. In Alberta, the same is true. In Quebec there is limited funding for pumps for adults. In Manitoba, there is supplies funding only for adults, I believe. If you have the means or the private benefits you can get funding in Newfoundland and Labrador if you are 26 and over. Howver if you are only earning the minimum wage I doubt you have private extended health benefits. Better benefits for all would even the playing field among workers whether high income earners or low. Lorraine Michael is the health critic for the NDP. Barb Wagstaff is speaking with the Liberal health critic on Thursday about insulin pump and supplies funding for adults. I suggest Lorraine contact Barb and get the skinny on insulin pumps and the need for better pump funding. I'd be glad to inform her, too. If it weren't for Bob Rae's NDP bringing in the Trillium Drug Plan and the Assistive Devices Plan in Ontario I think the fight pump funding here would have been much tougher.

    • Dianna K. Goneau Inkster
      September 02, 2014 - 22:44

      http://www.change.org/p/government-of-newfoundland-and-labrador-provide-funding-for-the-latest-insulin-pump-cgm-devices-their-supplies-for-those-with-diabetes-regardless-of-age?recruiter=12310591&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition