“The minimum wage of $14.25 isn’t sufficient, so the population is living in a very precarious situation.”
About a thousand protesters marched through the streets of Montreal on Sunday on International Workers’ Day demanding a higher minimum wage and better working conditions.
The event was organized by a coalition of about 15 unions and organizations. Participants, many carrying flags from their unions and some coming with their families.
“We’ve seen the increase in the cost of living. The minimum wage of $14.25 isn’t sufficient, so the population is living in a very precarious situation,” explained co-spokesperson Benedicte Carole Ze of the Center des travailleurs et travailleuses immigrants.
Quebec’s minimum wage increased from $13.50 on Sunday, an increase of 5.6 per cent. While significant, it’s less than the 6.7 per cent annual inflation rate reported by the Bank of Canada in April.
“It’s not normal, it’s not decent for workers to have to work two or three jobs to remain in this precarious state,” said Marie-Claude Tremblay, another co-spokesperson for the coalition and a member of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec ( CSQ) union.
Québec solidaire MNA Ruba Ghazal, present with a contingent from her party, said the minimum wage must increase to $18 an hour to offer decent living conditions.
“What’s catastrophic and very infuriating today is that people at the bottom of the ladder, who work full-time, have to use food banks,” she said.
The coalition also called for improvements to working conditions, including offering a better work-life balance, the right to breaks and the right to have schedules in advance.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the Common Front, in which the three major union federations of the time joined forces to negotiate collective agreements for public and parapublic sectors. Last month, the CSN, CSQ and FTQ unions announced another common front for 2023 contract negotiations.
Traditionally, unions in a labor conflict lead the march. This year, it was strikers at Rolls-Royce Canada and the Molson-Coors plant in Longueuil.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.