As part of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, the Ontario government will introduce legislation that, if passed, would raise the general minimum wage from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022. Under the proposed changes, the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers would be eliminated and they would be entitled to the general minimum wage. Students under 18, homeworkers and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides would also see an increase in their special minimum wage rates.
“Ontario’s workers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as they’ve stocked shelves, kept our supply chain moving and helped so many of us enjoy a meal among family and friends at a local restaurant,” said Premier Doug Ford. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing the minimum wage was at the top of the list. As the cost of living continues to go up, our government is proud to be working for workers, putting more money into their pockets by increasing the minimum wage.”
Liquor servers have previously received below the general minimum wage, based on the belief customer tipping can make up the difference. However, many of these workers have increasingly seen their tips pooled and redistributed among many staff, making it harder for them to make ends meet. If the legislation is passed, liquor servers would be treated more fairly and see an unprecedented 19.5 per cent increase in their minimum hourly wage, as it changes from $12.55 per hour to the harmonized $15 per hour minimum wage.
The Ontario government is introducing legislation to increase minimum wages as the cost of living has increased considerably over the past several months, but wages for many have not kept pace. Special minimum wage rates are also proposed to increase:
- Students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays would see an increase from $13.50 to $14.10 an hour.
- Homeworkers (those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers) would see an increase from $15.80 an hour to $16.50 an hour.
- Hunting and fishing guides currently have a minimum rate of $71.75 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $143.55 for working five or more hours in a day. Their new proposed rate would be $75.00 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $150.05 for working five or more hours in a day.
Due to the pandemic, there have recently been higher than usual increases in the cost of living. The October 2021 annual minimum wage increase was based on the 2020 annual Consumer Price Index increase, which does not reflect the recent increases. From January-August 2021, there were 763,500 workers at or below the proposed general minimum wage of $15 in Ontario (StatsCan Labour Force Survey, 2021). The industries employing the most minimum wage earners are accommodation and food services, and retail trade.
Nearly 37% of workers at or below the proposed general minimum wage of $15 per hour are in retail trade and almost 24% are in accommodation and food services.