UPDATED: March 17, 2015 at 5:25 p.m.
On March 17, proponents and unions gathered outside the SUB to support Fight for $15, a B.C. Federation of Labour sponsored campaign with the goal of raising B.C.’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2015. However, organizers of the group did not gain permission to gather on campus and were therefore asked to leave by Campus Security. After going through the proper channels, the group will attempt to gather again next week. Campus Security declined to comment for this story.
Tara Ehrcke, a B.C. public school teacher, is organizing the event at UVic. “Half of all minimum wage workers are people who are adults supporting themselves, and a lot of the time supporting family,” she said in an interview before the event. “[Some are] even seniors who have to keep working if they don’t have retirement income.”
While 120,000 workers in B.C. are being paid the minimum wage, over half a million earn less than $15 an hour. Despite this, even working at the $15 mark is well below the living wage in most of B.C.
Ehrcke stressed that part of their campaign is to break the stigmas surrounding minimum wages. According to her, it is a myth that only teenagers are paid minimum wage, and that raising wages would harm small businesses.
“I just think it’s really unfair that anybody has to work for poverty level wages. We’re a wealthy society,” said Ehrcke. “Anybody who is working and giving up their time and labour deserves to have fair compensation.”
Kenya Rogers, next year’s Director of External Relations, said that this issue is one that is definitely on the UVSS’s radar. “I think living wage is about $18 here,” said Rogers. “When you’re looking at it that way, even at $15 we should be able to get there because we’re not even at living wages yet.”
Rogers felt that a standard $15 an hour is a plausible goal for SUB employees within the coming years and said that it would be brought up at the next collective bargaining agreement.
The fight for higher minimum wages is an ongoing battle. The B.C. government announced a 20 cent increase to minimum wage on Mar. 12, bringing the minimum wage up to $10.45 an hour in September; however, this is still far from the Fight for $15 goal.
Ehrcke called the increase, “laughable,” while noting the problem of increasing a wage to match inflation that is already well below the poverty line. “Really it’s saying they’re going to maintain the minimum below poverty level wages forever. That’s kind of what they said. It’s totally disgraceful.”
For more information on the Victoria fight for $15, visit http://www.fightfor15victoria.ca/