A Nanaimo taxpayer has started a petition asking for a temporary minimum-wage increase for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian Gaensbauer has registered a petition with the House of Commons asking that minimum wage be supplemented to $20 per hour for workers in sectors deemed essential.
Gaensbauer’s petition has received authorization from Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, and if it reaches 500 signatures in 30 days, will be read in the house.
Gaensbauer said employees are now facing risks they hadn’t before, and in some cases their jobs have become more difficult. He believes some are wondering if their jobs are worth the risk.
“We want to keep those people working if they are healthy and maybe compensate them more for the risk that they’re taking and the extra workload, in some cases,” he said.
His petition notes that some small- and medium-sized businesses that have been deemed to be essential services are unable to pay higher wages and might not meet the government’s criteria for wage subsidies under other COVID-19 relief programs.
“I’m a taxpayer myself and I’m not a big fan of subsidies to business or just spending money, but given the large amount that has been pledged by the government for other sorts of stimulus, we’re into the many billions,” Gaensbauer said.
He said he thinks $20-per-hour minimum wage would help a lot of essential services workers in Nanaimo and with 127 signatures so far, he’s hopeful he can reach the threshold.
“Of course it is the will of the government to make it happen, but I think within 30 days, we’re still going to have this issue and it’s still going to be relevant,” he said.
To view or sign the petition, click here.
On April 27, the federal government opened up applications for the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which tops up the pay of essential workers making less than $2,500 per month. In mid-April the feds announced they were also expanding the Canada emergency response benefit to people who earn up to $1,000 per month.
“Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter, or a contractor who can pick up some shifts, or you have a part-time job in a grocery store,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a daily press conference in mid April. “Even if you’re still working or if you want to start working again, you probably need help in making ends meet.”
The PM said he would be discussing with provincial and territorial leaders the importance of getting the wage boost in place “as quickly as possible as we face an unprecedented threat to public health.”