Workers and a coalition of community groups are calling for minimum wage in Quebec to be bumped up to $18 an hour, a $4.50 raise.

“The cost of life has increased in the past months and $18 per hour, it won't take as much for the employers, because it's a minimum of their global costs for the employees,” Christian Daigle, president of union group the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ).

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on salaries and essential work, with many critical jobs offering the minimum wage of $13,50. That includes those who staffed seniors’ residences the past two years, said Cheolki Yoon of the Immigrant Workers’ Centre.

“They're mostly paid minimum wage and working hard, mostly working the night shift and no prospect of increasing their wage,” Yoon said.

Marie-Josee Encarnaso, a grandmother of four, said that in her 26 years of working in men's clothing manufacturing, she has never topped $15 an hour.

“I get $14.88 an hour and for us to make a little extra money… we have to work overtime," she said.

Encarnaso said she plans to have her family over for the holidays, but that it’s an event for which she’ll need to save up.

“If you have the family over for a weekend, you’ve got to feed seven,” she said. “It comes out expensive on a grocery budget. It's expensive.”

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet said his government is still consulting on the issue of a minimum wage increase.