Labour groups concerned that Stefanson government is considering wage cut for apprentices

March 15, 2023

Government risks making labour shortage worse.

(Winnipeg) – Today, Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck and Manitoba Building Trades Executive Director Tanya Palson raised concerns that the Stefanson government’s current review of apprenticeship wages will leave the door open to rolling back wages for apprentices and making Manitoba’s labour shortage worse.

“Manitoba should be doing all that it can to attract young people to build their futures right here at home,” said Rebeck. “We hear repeatedly from businesses that we face a labour shortage in this province. Slashing wages for apprentices will do nothing to solve this problem, and it will drive young people to other provinces to seek training and to build their careers.”

The vast majority of apprentices have their minimum wage rates tied to the provincial minimum wage. When the provincial minimum wage goes up, as it is scheduled to do in October of this year, the minimum wage for these trades goes up accordingly.

The language in the government’s current consulation suggests that this scheduled minimum wage increase for apprentices may be canceled.

Rebeck added that if apprenticeship wages are slashed, it would be the latest move by this government to weaken apprenticeship training. It has previously weakened safety protections and training by changing the apprentice-to-journeyperson from 1:1 to 2:1, eliminating requirements for apprentices to be employed on provincial construction projects and continuing to freeze the budget for apprenticeship seats.

“Our industry is facing a skilled labour crisis. When demand for skilled labour is this high, it could not be a worse time to restrict wages,” said Palson. “The government should be incentivizing individual participation in apprenticeship, not looking for loopholes in minimum wage law for contractors to save on labour. The bottom line won’t matter if you have no one qualified to do the work. Beggars can’t be choosers.”