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British Columbia B.C. minimum wage hike still means poverty for thousands: federation

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The B.C. government has increased the provincial minimum wage by 40 cents an hour but critics say the hike still leaves half a million workers earning poverty-level wages.

The minimum wage edged up to $10.85 per hour on Thursday, while the same wage for liquor servers increased to $9.60.

BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger says that despite the raise, one of out every four workers in the province earns poverty wages below $15 per hour.

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She says the federation will continue to lobby for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, arguing it will improve living standards for employees and their families.

But B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says the increase strikes the right balance by supporting workers while also ensuring investment continues and job creation remains strong.

The federation says the 40-cent boost moves British Columbia from last place on the country's minimum-wage list to eighth spot among the provinces and territories, although B.C. has one of the highest costs of living in Canada.

B.C.'s next minimum wage increase is set for September 2017, when it is due to climb another 40 cents to $11.25.

"We think it's a responsible approach to continue to incrementally and reasonably increase the minimum wage," Bond says, noting the province will have boosted the minimum wage by 40 per cent since 2011, when next year's hike takes effect.

"The plight of low-wage workers just isn't on her radar," argues Lanzinger of Premier Christy Clark's administration.

The BC Federation of Labour president urges voters to keep the issue in mind as the province prepares for an election next May.

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