Living Wage Motion Passed Unanimously by City Council

As you may have heard recently, the living wage motion brought to City Council was unanimously approved. The motion originated with the living wage for families campaign. CUPE 391 has been actively working with them since 2014.The living wage for families campaign is a grassroots coalition consisting of an advisory panel made up of community groups, partners and supporters including unions, businesses, parents and individual low income earners from the Metro Vancouver region. It was established formally in 2008. The campaign advocates for a living wage that covers essential expenses divided into 10 categories reviewed annually. The living wage calculation is for a family of two full time working parents taking care of two children in a specific geographic region. This definition of a family unit was chosen because in BC, 76 percent of families with children are headed by couples and 57 percent of them have two or more children.  The living wage currently for Metro Vancouver is $20.68 /hr or $37,638 annually.  Prior to 2012, the living wage was also enough for a single parent with one child to live on. However, since then the living wage is no longer enough for a single parent.  Primarily this is because too many programs intended for low-income families have income thresholds for participation that are set too low, and subsidy amounts provided have been frozen for years despite annual increases in the cost of living.

The living wage is a net calculation of additions to income such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), and deductions such as Employment Insurance (EI) and Canada Pension Plan (CCP) Contributions. The living wage can be accomplished either by a wage increase to $20.68 /hr, or its equivalent through a combination of employer non-mandatory benefits converted to an hourly value and added to wages. The non-mandatory benefits could include extended health, medical service premiums, professional development costs, even subsidized transit costs. The living wage is not the minimum wage which currently stands at $10.25/hr. The minimum wage is provincially legislated and must be viewed as a step towards a living wage. The living wage is a voluntary standard that accurately reflects the cost of living for a specific region.  For example, the living wage in Greater Victoria is $20.05, in Central Okanagan $18.01, in Kamloops $17.95, in Fraser Valley $17.27, and in Prince George $16.95 just to name a few.

The living wage not only benefits low wage earners but employers as well by lowering turnover rates, and absenteeism, while improving worker performance and morale, and customer satisfaction. It also raises the overall ethical standing of the organization in the eyes of the community. The living wage idea has been around globally since the 1990’s and has been implemented in 140 municipalities and counties in the US including Boston, Detroit, Chicago, LA and New York as well as many cities in the UK. In 2010, New Westminster, BC became the first Canadian municipality to enact a comprehensive living wage policy that in retrospect has not been a significant cost to the City’s overall budget.

A living wage employer must meet the following criteria:

1) all employees (full time, part time and casual) must be paid the living wage rate or its equivalent if you include non-mandatory benefits

    2) externally contracted staff that provides services to the organization on a regular ongoing basis must be paid the living wage

3) employees paid by incentive based commission can be paid less than the living wage if their total income equals or exceed the living wage.

Here in the library, shelvers have two steps of pay: step 1 $16.87/hr and step 2 $17.54/hr. If you add a 10% in lieu of benefits to $17.54/hr you get $19.29/hr which is still not the living wage. So the shelvers would be eligible for an increase to $20.68/hr either as a straight wage increase or as a combination of wages and benefits

There is no timeline or exact details of implementation yet for the living wage. The living wage could be phased in all at once or gradually. Although here in the library there are 120 or so shelvers who don’t make the living wage, other union locals such as 1004 have thousands of seasonal workers who don’t make the living wage (i.e. PNE workers). Therefore implementation is not necessarily an easy thing.

The Executive will let you know of any developments regarding implementation.

In sol