NEW YORK (Reuters) — The board that oversees major airports in New York and New Jersey voted on Thursday to consider phasing in a minimum wage increase to US$19 per hour by 2023, affecting about 20,000 workers.
If approved, the measure would lift wages for eligible workers at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport.
Officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which run those and other airports, bridges, tunnels and ports in the region, said they did not yet have an exact tally of how much the wage increases would cost contractors, subcontractors, terminal operators, concessionaires, airlines or ultimately passengers.
There is a 60-day public comment period before the board conducts a final vote, scheduled for June 28.
Workers at Newark in particular have long pressed the Port Authority for higher wages. With several new board members, a new chairman and new executive director, the Port Authority finally moved the measures forward on Thursday.
The proposed increase comes as New York phases in higher minimum wages throughout the state, to ultimately reach $15 an hour.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy proposed lifting the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour in his budget proposal earlier this month.
Newark workers would see wages increase from their current $10.45 to $12.45 in September, then to $15.60 by September 2019 – when they would be equal to pay levels at JFK and LaGuardia, where minimum wage workers currently earn $13 an hour.
"This action is about decency and respect, and by raising the minimum wage for the dedicated men and women who fuel our regional economy, New York will continue to serve as a beacon of progress and opportunity for all," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
Past studies showed "the dramatic reduction in turnover that occurs by virtue of workers earning a higher wage," Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said at a broadcast press conference following the board meeting.
Turnover rates among minimum wage workers at the three airports are as high as 40 per cent, which Cotton called "astonishing."
He said employers also benefit from lower turnover rates and he believed the net impact on costs would ultimately be "modest."
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