Ontario health workers prescribe $14 minimum wage
TheStar.com – News/World – Ontario health care providers prescribe $14 minimum wage to fight ill health of low-wage workers.
Jan 14 2014. By: Laurie Monsebraaten, Social justice reporter
Ontario health-care providers are prescribing a $14 minimum wage to improve the failing health of low-wage workers in the province.
Research shows poor people live shorter lives with more disability and that the precarious nature of low-wage work carries a greater risk of illness and injury, said Dr. Gary Bloch, a family physician at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and a member of Health Providers Against Poverty.
Poverty-level minimum wages in a wealthy province like Ontario are “both a tragedy and a public health travesty,” Bloch told a Queen’s Park news conference Tuesday.
“Our government has the power to prescribe better health, not through more drugs or heath technologies, but through a legislated living minimum wage,” he said.
A $14 minimum wage would put a full-time worker about 10 per cent above Ontario’s poverty line of about $19,000 a year, after taxes.
Almost 500,000 Ontarians — one in nine workers — earn the minimum wage of $10.25, which has been frozen for almost four years, the group noted.
The situation is even worse for immigrants who, despite their higher education levels, are twice as likely to work for minimum wage as the average Ontarian, said Axelle Janczur, executive director, Access Alliance Community Health Centre.
“It does not take very long before newcomers begin to experience mental and physical health deterioration,” she said. “A disturbingly high percentage of our newcomer clients are suffering from serious, chronic health issues.”
After raising the minimum wage by 50 per cent since 2003, the Liberal government appointed an advisory panel last summer to recommend a formula for future increases.
“We look forward to releasing the panel’s report in the near future because a fair and predictable minimum wage system is part of the Ontario government’s plan for building a more prosperous economy, while ensuring a fair society for all,” Labour Minister Yassir Naqvi said in a statement.
Esther Sebastien, 55, came to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago in 2007 to make a better life for her children, now in high school and university.
But despite training as a personal support worker, she has been unable to earn much more than the minimum wage to supplement her husband’s low factory work wages.
“It is stressful not being able to make enough money to provide for your family,” said Sebastien, who earned less than $17,000 working two part-time jobs last year.
Tim Hudak’s provincial Tories oppose a $14 minimum wage because they say it will hurt small business.
“Our plan is to create 1 million good paying jobs, specifically in manufacturing . . . not to legislate a $14 minimum wage,” said PC Labour Critic Monte McNaughton (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex), referring to the jobs initiative Hudak announced Monday.
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