Minister of Community Services John Streicker speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7. The Yukon government announced March 6 that minimum wage will be increasing by more than a dollar starting April 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon’s minimum wage to rise to $12.71 on April 1

The current minimum wage is $11.51, a difference of $1.20

Yukoners making minimum wage will be seeing larger pay cheques beginning April 1, when the amount they make an hour will increase from $11.51 to $12.71.

The Yukon government made the announcement in a press release March 6. The increase stems from an order made by the territory’s Employment Standards Board, now approved by the government, to increase minimum wage by 90 cents plus the 2018 Whitehorse consumer price index — a figure calculated based on the costs of certain goods and services — of 2.4 per cent.

That’s an overall increase of $1.20.

The board made the recommendation for the increase in a November 2018 report, which itself was the result of a review it conducted following a request from Minister of Community Services John Streicker.

The report notes that as of 2017, there are “relatively few” Yukoners who are paid minimum wage, or even up to $13 an hour, with more people falling into the $13-to-$15-an-hour bracket.

In an interview Mar. 7, Streicker said that while most Yukoners don’t make minimum wage, the effect of an increase has a wider impact than on just the workers making it.

“In any economy, when you raise your minimum wage, that will push up other low wages somewhat, and of course, the closer you are to the minimum wage the more of an effect you will feel,” he said.

“…And it also is true that when you’re trying to attract people (to the territory) … one of the things that they will do is look and see, what’s the minimum wage?”

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition executive director Kristina Craig that the minimum wage increase is a “step in the right direction.”

Though $12.71 is still far below the “living wage” of $18.57 for Whitehorse, a figure the coalition identified in a 2018 report, Craig said that’s not to suggest that minimum wage should match living wage. Increasing minimum wage is only one tool that can be used to bridge the gap — creating more rent-geared-to-income housing options and affordable childcare options, for example, would also help.

However, Craig added that it was “disappointing” the government didn’t accept the recommendations in the employment standards board’s report for minimum wage increases for 2020 and 2021 that would ultimately bring minimum wage to an estimated $15.12 an hour.

Instead, Streicker has asked the employment standards board to to consider four things — changes in the consumer price index, comparing and monitoring other jurisdictions, a Yukon government-commissioned economic impact analysis of additional increases, and “any other relevant information” — before making recommendations on how to implement minimum wage increases in the next two years.

“The board is being asked to go back and consider some of the things they’ve already considered,” Craig said.

That’s not the case, according to Streicker.

“In the report in November, (the board) had for example, based all of their work on kind of a projection of the consumer price index of 1.5 per cent, but we now know that last year, it was 2.4 per cent,” Streicker explained.

“… So I think there were several reasons why we would want to do it in steps so that there’s a chance for (the board) to adjust to those realities as they come to light.”

The Yukon’s minimum wage continues to be the lowest among the territories.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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