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A rally calling for better working conditions for New Brunswickers was held in front of Labour Minister Trevor Holder's constituency office in Saint John on Nov. 14, 2022. Image: Brad Perry

N.B. Residents Rally For Better Working Conditions

By Brad Perry Nov 14, 2022 | 3:01 PM

Calls for the Higgs government to improve working conditions for low-income New Brunswickers.

Nearly two dozen people rallied outside Labour Minister Trevor Holder’s constituency office in Saint John on Monday.

The noon-hour rally was organized by the Common Front for Social Justice, which advocates for people living in poverty and low-wage earners.

“It’s been a really difficult year for a lot of New Brunswickers, especially low-wage workers and minimum-wage workers,” Janelle LeBlanc, provincial coordinator for the group, said in an interview.

“With the cost of living soaring and minimum wage and wages staying stagnant, people just can’t afford to pay for groceries and rent and electricity.

Among the group’s asks are increasing the minimum wage to a “living wage” of $20 per hour and mandating 10 employer-paid sick days per year.

A living wage is defined as the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community.

The Common Front also wants overtime rates to be based on the workers’ current rate of pay rather than the minimum wage.

While LeBlanc applauded the government for increasing the minimum wage by $2 an hour since last fall, she said $13.75 is not enough to cover expenses.

“We know so many people who work a minimum wage, they go to the grocery store, they barely buy any veggies and fruit because they can’t afford it,” she said.

“The wages right now are just not cutting it. It’s just not covering the cost of living.”

LeBlanc said she hopes the minister and his government are receptive to their ideas and will do more to help New Brunswickers in need.

Holder was not at his constituency office during the rally, but organizers hand-delivered a letter outlining their ideas.

In a statement, Holder said it is important to him to listen to any concerns brought forward in relation to working conditions and wages.

“In terms of wages, I am incredibly proud to have brought forward a historic increase to the province’s minimum wage in 2022, the largest single-year increase in 40 years. We also expect that in 2023 there will be another significant increase due to the indexing of minimum wage to the consumer price index,” said Holder.

“In anything we do, we must consider both the needs of our employers and our workers, and I remain committed to finding a balance and promoting equity.”

Holder said the government must also support those who are currently earning minimum wage to get the training and skills needed to transition into better opportunities.

The minister said launching WorkingNB several years ago was about better meeting the needs of workers, employers and communities.

“I would encourage anyone struggling with lower-paying jobs to reach out to one of our 19 offices across the province and to meet with an employment counsellor for career planning or transitioning.”


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