BY ROBERT KOUMARELAS
There have been mixed responses to the Ontario PC government canceling the previous administrations plan to increase the minimum wage from $14 to $15.
Most businesses and organizations are now keeping minimum wages the same since they are no longer legally obligated to, but a small number of employers are keeping their promise to workers.
Sheridan College’s SSU is voluntarily increasing the minimum wage.
“For us we were always fiscally responsible, and when we knew this was coming up, we forecast for it and we budgeted for it, we did our due diligence to ensure that those funds were gonna be there for all of our part-time staff,” says Enrique Ponce, who is serving his second year as president of Sheridan Student Union.
Ponce said that he saw the situation through the student’s perspective and argued in favor of the employees wants and needs rather than adhering to the new status quo by the PCs. “That was not just solely my decision. I wanted to ensure it was student-lead so I had that conversation with my three vice-presidents, and that’s not to say it was a smooth conversation. The topic itself is a bit contentious in the sense of do we go with fair pay to what was owed to a lot of disgruntled people?”
Minimum wage has been a tense topic of discussion as employers argue that they cannot increase wages and add benefits while making their businesses profitable. While employees argue that they cannot survive on wages as they stand.
“We were sort of split within our group. Do we go with the full 15 or do we not do anything at all? We did have one of our VP’s that was against even increasing it at all but a few of us were more on the side of moving forward with the full 15. We had a good conversation around that and we met in the middle,” said Ponce.
When the minimum wage was previously increased from $11.60 to $14, businesses argued that they could not handle paying 20 percent more to employees. This resulted in a number of businesses increasing prices, as well as cutting hours and benefits for employees.
In the PC Open for Business legislation, Ontario’s minimum wage will be frozen at $14 for at least the next two years.
The SSU is not alone in recognizing the need to do right for their employees. HotBlack Coffee, a Toronto café is following through on a promise to employees that increases wages to $15, as originally planned.
“I made a promise everybody would go up to the equivalent of $14 to $15, not just the minimum people,” said Jimson Bienenstock, co-owner of HotBlack Coffee.
Bienenstock argued that it’s not right to treat workers as if they only have minimum worth.
“When you’re on the minimum wage you always think ‘well I’m worth more than just the minimum, I’m trying hard in everything and maybe there’s another employer out there who will give me a bit more.’ And by paying a little bit more than everybody else then there’s less staff turnover which means higher attention rate which means better customer service.”