wage increase long past due

The Yukon’s minimum wage has increased. Now, the absolute rock-bottom wage a Yukon employee can make is $8.25 an hour.

The Yukon’s minimum wage has increased.

Now, the absolute rock-bottom wage a Yukon employee can make is $8.25 an hour.

Keeping in mind that the average annual Yukon salary is $43,160, if a minimum-wage employee works a full 40-hour week, their annual gross pay will now be $17,160.

That’s not a lot of cash.

And it needs to be noted that most minimum wage earners don’t work 40 hours.

The national average is about 33 hours, and on that schedule the bottom-rung Yukoner will make $14,140, well below the low-income cutoff rate of $15,928 a year.

Since 1998, the last year it was bumped up, a minimum-wage earner has seen their buying power erode 13.1 per cent.

So it is high time the rate was raised.

Of course, not everyone is happy.

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce wanted any increase phased in over several years.

And, yes, the increased minimum wage, which just jumped $1.05 an hour, will pinch the bottom line of some businesses.

But the cost of living has increased.

It’s clear in the price of food, gas, and clothing. And clearly some local businesses have not passed any of that wealth to their lowliest employees.

Now they’re being forced to. And that’s a good thing.

There are questions surrounding this decision by the Yukon Employment Standards Board — the biggest one being why did it take the board eight years to act?

It should have implemented more regular increases, both to protect workers and shield employers from the hefty $1.05 increase.

In the past, board spokesperson Gerry Thick claimed the board didn’t know this was its responsibility. Apparently, the gap was a simple oversight, brought on by new members who didn’t realize minimum wage increases fell under their responsibility.

This is a staggering admission.

Now, the board has tied future increases to the Consumer Price Index, which will automatically adjust the wage.

And this is a first for a Canadian jurisdiction.

Despite its past errors, the board should be applauded for implementing this bold change.

It should help to avoid another years-long lapse in minimum-wage increases.

And that’s good for everyone. (RM)