SA to pay $15 minimum wage

Move follows announcement of Ontario adopting $15 minimum wage in 2019 

Starting in January 2018, part-time staff for the Student Association (SA) will earn at least $15 an hour, up from the current wage of $14.25. 

The raise will come a year ahead Ontario’s proposed move to a $15 minimum wage, which is set to take effect across Ontario in January.

“We wanted to be a step ahead of the government by making the fair $15 starting in January 2018,” said Riddhi Modi, the SA’s director of communications and internal. “In a way we are really a step ahead (and) thinking about the future.” 

The SA funds The Dialog.

Mohammad Ali Aumeer, who was the SA director of education and equity from 2012 to 2014, applauds the move to $15 and said student unions need to do more for their part-time workers to ensure they are leading the government by example.

“Pushing for more benefits for students and raising it beyond $15 adds extra pressure on the government to step their game up,” he said. “And the Student Association and other student unions in general have done a great job of that historically, and the more the SA does that the better students will be and the better the province will be.” 

Modi said that another reason for the raise is due to an SA policy to pay its part-time staff 125 per cent of Ontario’s minimum wage. If the province moves to a $15 minimum wage, the policy would have seen part-time workers at the SA make $18.75. According to Modi that would mean part-time student staff would make more than the SA’s full-time staff. 

At its Aug. 14 meeting, the SA board of directors voted to remove the 125 per cent clause from its human resources manual, as well as a 50-cent per year raise it previously offered returning part-time student workers, effective January 2018.

Before the $15 increase in January, part-time employees will see their wages go up by 25-cents in keeping with Ontario’s minimum wage increase in October. 

The proposed move to a $15 minimum wage is part of the Ontario Liberal Government’s Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act.

Depending on the city, the move to a $15 minimum wage may not be adequate to cover living expenses according to David Macdonald, an economist with the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives. But having a $15 minimum wage, Macdonald said, will have a positive effect. 

“You see surprisingly large impacts on recent immigrant women and First Nations women in particular,” he said. “So some of those key demographics that might be otherwise hard to reach get a big boost from a minimum wage increase in Ontario.”

Keep Ontario Working, a coalition of industry associations, said in an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne that the changes in Bill 148 have created uncertainty for businesses in Ontario. The group called the increase in minimum wage “arbitrary” and asked Premier Wynne to slow the pace of the changes.   

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SA to pay $15 minimum wage