Tories boost construction minimum wage after wanting to dump it

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Construction industry minimum wages will rise by 14 per cent over the next three years, a major about-face from a Tory government that considered repealing minimum wage legislation for building trades less than two years ago.

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Construction industry minimum wages will rise by 14 per cent over the next three years, a major about-face from a Tory government that considered repealing minimum wage legislation for building trades less than two years ago.

The Progressive Conservative government amended regulations in the Construction Industry Wages Act on Thursday, to increase the minimum wage for construction workers.

“The construction sector provides critical services that are a key component of economic growth in our province,” Reg Helwer, the minister responsible, said in a news release. “Adequate and appropriate compensation ensures we are able to recruit and retain the skilled professionals needed to support ongoing development.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES The Progressive Conservative government amended regulations in the Construction Industry Wages Act on Thursday, to increase the minimum wage for construction workers.

In December 2020, a confidential meeting request was sent by the government to industry members about how to repeal the legislation with minimal disruption.

After getting push-back from Manitoba Building Trades, industry members and Conservative Sen. Don Plett, who warned that it wasn’t a good time to “tinker” with the wages act, former finance minister Scott Fielding scrapped the plan and vowed to update the minimum-wage rates for the construction industry workforce.

On Thursday, after five years without an increase to construction industry minimum wages, the province announced that starting in September, the sector will see a 14 per cent hike over the next three year.

The first wage increase will take effect on Sept. 1, followed by additional increases on April 1, 2023, and on April 1, 2024.

The double-digit increase is intended to catch up on inflation since the last increase and keep pace with expected inflation to 2024, the government news release said.

The amendment to the wages law will change the trainee-to-skilled tradesperson ratio to two-to-one from one-to-one, in keeping with a recent change to the apprentice-to-journeyperson ratio, which was opposed by some workplace safety advocates.

The change was “unanimously recommended by industry stakeholders following consultation with a working group that includes representation from employers and employees in Manitoba’s construction industry,” the government news release said.

The amendments to the wages law were posted on the Manitoba Regulatory Consultation Portal for a 45-day public consultation period that concluded in early June, it said.

As for Manitoba’s general minimum wage, which will rise 40 cents to $12.35 an hour on Oct. 1, Helwer said he’s still consulting with business and labour groups.

The government passed Bill 44 before the summer recess to allow cabinet to increase the minimum wage higher than the previous year’s inflation rate, if Manitoba’s consumer price index rises five per cent or more in the first quarter of the year. The wage increase must take effect between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, with at least 30 days’ notice.

“We know this is a priority for many Manitobans, due to recent inflationary pressures as well as the ongoing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Helwer said in the release.

Many industries that rely on minimum-wage earners, such as the hospitality sector, cannot get enough workers because of the low pay.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

The Construction Industry Minimum Wage Regulation

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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