B.C. to boost minimum wage to $17.40/hour on June 1

B.C. to boost minimum wage to $17.40/hour on June 1
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
The B.C. legislature is seen in this file photo.

The minimum wage in B.C. is about to increase by 65 cents to $17.40 an hour on June 1, impacting hundreds of thousands of workers, according to the province.

The B.C. government says the 3.9 per cent pay bump from $16.75 “will help approximately 240,000 workers who currently earn less than $17.40 per hour.”

It says regular, gradual increases to the minimum wage provide “certainty” for workers and “predictability” for businesses.

The province says this is the third year that the jump “reflects a commitment to tie the annual minimum wage to inflation,” after increases last June and in June 2022.

The wage raise of $1.10 in June 2023 was more than double the 45c the year prior.

In the past, B.C.’s Labour Minister Harry Bains has said such increases help prevent “the lowest paid workers from falling behind,” while BC Federation of Labour president Sussanne Skidmore agreed, calling it “much-needed.”

However, last year, BC Chamber of Commerce president Fiona Famulak said wage increases add “significantly” to the cost of doing business in the province.

Anita Huberman, president of the Surrey Board of Trade, also noted that these pay jumps lead to more “unsustainable” costs for businesses.

Minimum vs. living wage

Living Wage for Families in BC says even though the minimum wage may be going up, one-third of British Columbians are not earning a living wage — the hourly rate that each of two parents working full-time must earn to support a family of four and meet basic expenses. 

“It allows for a modest lifestyle without severe financial stress and the ability to participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of their communities,” it says.

In Greater Victoria, for example, the gap between the two wages come June 1 is $8 per hour, according to the Living Wage for Families, which got its data from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ B.C. office.

The findings from November 2023 show the living wage in the Victoria area is $25.40, while Cowichan Valley’s is $25.20, Nanaimo’s is $22.87, and Comox Valley’s is $22.02.

“In the current affordability crisis, workers are stuck in the gap between the living wage and the minimum wage and face impossible choices — buy groceries or heat the house, keep up with bills or pay the rent on time,” says Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families BC provincial manager.

The organization says people shouldn’t have to rely on rent or food banks to get by, so it’s calling on the provincial government to do more.

“The government needs to look at what it can do to both lift wages and make life more affordable for people so that we can close the gap between the minimum and the living wage,” added French.

In a release Monday, the province says the increase also applies to rates for resident caretakers, live-in home-support workers, and live-in camp leaders.

On Dec. 31, the minimum piece rates for hand-harvesting of the 15 crops specified in the Employment Standards Regulation will also jump by 3.9 per cent.

B.C.’s minimum wage is the third-highest in the country, behind Yukon’s $17.59 an hour and Nunavut’s $19 an hour. The latter jumped from $16 in January, says the Retail Council of Canada.

(Minimum hourly wage rates as of May 1, 2024. B.C.’s minimum wage increases to $17.40 on June 1. Photo: RetailCouncil.org)

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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