An advocacy group is urging Ontarians to fight back against what it says is an attempt by “big business billionaires,” including Loblaw Companies CEO Galen G. Weston, to “sabotage” the Wynn government’s plan to raise the minimum wage.
Leadnow has launched an online petition called “Stop the sabotage of minimum wage in Ontario,” claiming that Weston and other CEOs are trying to convince the premier to back away from her plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $14 an hour effective Jan. 1.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 13,000 people had signed the Leadnow petition supporting the proposed wage hike.
During Loblaws’ most recent earnings report, Weston told analysts that planned minimum wage hikes in Ontario and Alberta would result in an additional $190 million a year in labour costs.
Weston described the wage increases as the most significant in recent memory, and said they would have a “meaningful impact” on Loblaw’s operating costs. “These recent developments create a gap for 2018 that we must work hard to close,” the CEO told analysts.
Loblaw didn’t respond to Canadian Grocer‘s request for comment before press time. However, in a statement to the Globe and Mail last week, Weston said Loblaw does not oppose the minimum wage increase, but is doing its due diligence by making shareholders aware of the impact a wage hike would have on the company.
“We made no value judgements. Clearly communicating an unplanned increase in costs to our business is not a campaign to undermine wage rates,” he said. “Our company and I have been long-time supporters of progressive public policies that support a balanced, sustainable and prosperous economy, regardless of politics.”
But Leadnow said media coverage of Weston’s remarks was amplifying a “false perception” that minimum wage increases could hurt the economy.
“[Weston] has a net worth of $10 billion, so his whining about paying his employees a liveable income is a bit rich – especially when you consider that in just 2 days Mr. Weston makes almost double what a Loblaw’s employee makes in an entire year,” Leadnow said in a statement. “He can afford to pay his employees $3 more an hour, and he knows it.”
The group called Weston and other billionaire CEOs the “biggest threat” to proposed minimum wage increases, arguing the majority of small and medium-sized business owners support the increase because it leads to less staff turnover.
However, independent grocers interviewed by Canadian Grocer shortly after the wage hike was announced said it would eat into already razor-thin profits and possibly lead to staff reductions.
Established in 2010, Leadnow is an independent non-profit that “envisions a just, sustainable and equitable Canada, built and defended through the democratic power of an engaged public.”
The organization’s other recent petitions include a call for Sears Canada to reduce the nearly $9 million retention bonuses to its senior executives (which has collected nearly 13,000 signatures) and a call to reverse budget cuts to the Toronto Public Library.