Manitoba NDP, Liberals pledge to hike minimum wage

Manitoba’s New Democratic Party and Liberal Party announced a host of worker-friendly campaign promises over the Labour Day weekend, with both parties committing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The province’s minimum wage, one of the lowest in Canada, is currently $11.35 an hour. It’s set to increase to $11.65 on Oct. 1, 2019. The Liberals said they would raise the minimum wage within two years. The NDP didn’t offer a timeline, but in 2017 committed to implementing the change by 2024.

Read: How will Canada Labour Code changes affect employers?

“I have never met anyone in Manitoba who feels it’s fair that someone who works full time should have to live in poverty. Yet, that’s exactly the situation right now in Manitoba under [current Premier] Brian Pallister,” said NDP leader Wab Kinew in a press release. “We’ll change that.”

The NDP also promised to ban Manitoba employers from requiring a sick note from employees whose illnesses last less than 72 hours. “Requiring people to go to the doctor — or even an emergency room — to get a sick note to excuse a short-term illness is not only unfair to those people who should be home getting rest, it also wastes the time of doctors and causes unnecessary congestion and delays in the health-care system,” said Kinew.

In addition, the party said it would protect the jobs of people who go on employment insurance sick benefits, hire more workplace health and safety officers and restore a workplace safety advisory council that was scrapped under Pallister .

Read: Will the return of Ontario’s sick note add complexities for employers?

The Liberals said it would “increase enforcement of workplace health and safety issues,” but didn’t provide further details. The party also promised to ensure timely labour negotiations to prevent employees from working long stretches of time without a contract.

Both parties pledged to cancel Pallister’s Public Services Sustainability Act, which was passed in 2017 and would put in place a two-year wage freeze on public sector workers when enacted. Public sector unions have argued the bill violates their right to collective bargaining.

“The right to negotiate the value of your work, how much you will be paid, the hours you will work and the benefits you receive are among the most important decisions you can make in your life,” said Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont. “Manitoba Liberals want to ensure that people are paid fair wages, that we settle negotiations on time and that people make it home from work safe.”

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In other Labour Day proposals, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh promised at a Hamilton, Ont. campaign stop to immediately establish a $15 per hour federal minimum wage and grow it to a “living wage” within his first mandate if he were elected prime minister.

Singh also said he would modernize additional sections of the Canadian Labour Code to ban the use of replacement workers during labour disputes and deliver “fair compensation” for part-time and contract workers.