MILTON, Ont. — Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford, who cancelled a minimum-wage hike three years ago, announced a plan to re-instate a minimum wage increase to $15 starting in January 2022.
“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 Ford in a media conference. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing 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.”
Currently, minimum wage workers get $14.35 an hour, students get $13.50 and servers get $12.55. Specifically, servers and bartenders will see a 19.5 per cent increase to their minimum hourly wage under the new legislation.
“Liquor servers have previously received below the general minimum wage, based on the belief customer tipping can make up the difference,” reads a government press release. “However, many of these workers have increasingly seen their tips pooled and re-distributed among many staff, making it harder for them to make ends meet.”
“The Ontario liquor-server increase to $15 per hour has arrived with shock and disbelief,” says Tony Elenis, president and CEO, Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA). “The timing of this in an environment where restaurants are barely surviving is unbearable. Restaurant operations have been struggling for 20 months and are facing an even tougher recovery road ahead. They have been giving it all they have, and this announcement has been received as a slap in the face. While the general minimum-wage increase can be supported by inflation and the workforce shortages the industry is facing, eliminating the liquor-server rate contributes to one of the most critical struggles in a foodservice operation, which is inequity between servers who earn healthy incomes due to tips and the kitchen and support staff. Eliminating the liquor-server rate and moving it up to the general minimum-wage rate has made the issue much worse.”
The retail, hospitality and foodservice industries employ the most minimum wage earners, accounting for roughly 57 per cent of Ontario workers. Critics say this minimum wage hike falls short of a living wage and won’t address the labour shortages in these industries due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, more workers will continue flocking to other sectors to earn higher wages.