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Council to consider municipal status as living wage employer

UPDATE: Motion carried.

Council at Tuesday night’s meeting will consider directing staff to seek certification of the municipality as an Ontario Living Wage Network living wage employer at the “supporter” level.

The “supporter” level refers to the lowest level of certification for an employer, indicating that “all direct full-time employees are paid a living wage”, and that the employer “[has] committed to begin raising the pay of all direct part-time employees to the living wage rate.”

The municipality has already reached a level that would qualify it as a living-wage employer at the “supporter” level, with the lowest hourly rate it pays being no lower than $18/hour—this includes all departments, for full-time, part-time, and temporary staff, as well as all union and non-union employees.

This does not include volunteer firefighters, who are not considered employees under the Municipal Act, and it does not include summer students who are traditionally compensated at minimum wage with minor years of service increases. As per the living wage guidelines, summer student labour is not included in the living wage calculations and is not considered when determining “supporter” status, provided they do not represent the core work force of the corporation.

Council sought a report in July following a presentation by Anne Coleman, of the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN), an arm of Living Wage Canada, specifically advocating for the living wage in Ontario by, among other things, supporting local initiatives that would raise pay to a livable wage in workplaces, and performing calculations across Ontario jurisdictions to determine areas’ specific living wages.

Earlier this month, the OLWN published its most recently updated calculations for the living wage in Ontario. This calculus, which defines a living wage as “the hourly wage a worker needs to cover their basic expenses and participate within their community”, is measured by taking a weighted average of three sample groups: a family of four, a single parent with one child, and a single adult. The wage calculation also includes both benefits and wages.
Based on this calculation, the lowest living wage in Ontario is Sault Ste. Marie at $16.20/hour, and the highest is Toronto at $22.08/hour. Prince Edward County’s living wage was calculated at $17.95 per hour, up 60 cents from the previous calculation in 2019. For reference, the provincial minimum wage is set to be raised to $15/hour on Jan. 1, 2022.

The two other tiers of certification are a “leader” where all direct full and part-time employees are paid a living wage and that the employer is committed to including living wage in service contracts (third-party) employees that provide a service on a regular basis. The “champion” tier includes living wages paid to all direct full and part-time employees, all third party and the employer has signaled intent to re-contract at the living wage rate when the contract renews.

Should council wish to earn “Leader” certification, the municipality would have to meet two conditions, the first of which has already been met. These conditions are:
1. Pay all direct and part-time employees a living wage; and
2. Commit to including a living wage ($17.95/hr) in service contracts for third-parties that provide services to the municipality on a regular basis.

“Based on the traditional perception that wages in this community are lower than what is considered a living wage, the municipality should be both proud of ensuring its workforce is compensated at a level that is considered a living wage and encouraging of other industries and businesses to follow suit,” stated Noah Lister-Stevens, programs advisor, in a report to council.

The certification process entails the preparation of a basic plan and a license agreement with the OLWN. The annual license fee is $200 and entitles the municipality to advice, support, access to intellectual property and collateral materials from the OLWN. These resources could support communication efforts on the part of the municipality that would help to encourage other employers in our community to adopt a living wage program for their employees.

Filed Under: Local News

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