A few words about a living wage

Today at the city council Corporate Services Committee meeting, a motion to direct staff, in partnership with the Poverty Task Force, to investigate making the city an official supporter of a living wage, was defeated 3-2 with councillors Mackinnon, Billings and Mayor Guthrie voting against it. I believe that we missed an opportunity to take a leadership role in addressing poverty elimination.

Paying a living wage in my view should be an obligation. A civic responsibility. It should be a matter of course. It is the right thing to do. It is going to cost us money as a corporation to achieve the status of a living wage supporter, but it will cost our society more in the long run if we don’t.

We are so fortunate in Guelph. We are prosperous. We have low unemployment.We have a high quality of life. If you look a little deeper, the ‘we’ in that statement does not mean “all of us”. It means the privileged who have jobs that pay benefits, who don’t struggle every month to pay rent and buy food and look after their families. Look beneath the surface and you’ll see that our income gap is widening. People are being left behind, and when significant numbers are left behind, we cannot thrive as a community.

If you are NOT making a living wage, you are not contributing with your taxes. Instead you are drawing on services, you are COSTING the city and the province money. You are not contributing as consumers to our local businesses because you can’t afford it. You are not able to engage with your community because you are struggling, sometimes with two jobs, and you haven’t got the luxury of free time. You are not as healthy as your counterparts who ARE earning a living wage. You are not as productive in your job as those making ‘enough’. You are not as loyal to your employer, nor do you feel that you have a stake in your employer’s success.

We gain so much when we DO pay a living wage. When our workers prosper then we prosper. It’s as simple as that. There will be some who would say that we cannot afford to do this. I believe we can’t afford not to. It will be a short term burden to rectify this unjust inequity, but in the long term we will reap the rewards of this with a safer, healthier, better off and more equal populace. Really if we as employers cannot afford to pay a living wage, we shouldn’t be hiring!

It’s the right thing to do. It could be a central part of a long-term plan to address the income gap in Guelph. The example we can set to the city’s employers would have a ripple affect that would contribute immeasurably to our civic wellness. I feel positive that as a corporation we can find a way to pay a living wage to all our employees that is economically feasible, visionary and successful.

Our mayor feels that wages should be left to the ‘free market’ to sort themselves out. He says that the ‘left’ always makes the living wage a ‘moral and ethical’ issue, when it should be a strictly business decision. In this case I disagree. It is the free market that is responsible for our huge wage gap. The ‘free market’ allows executive salaries to soar, while wages of regular workers goes down. When a corporation is only driven by a desire for a greater profit, the default is to lower wages, not raise them. And yet, some innovative companies are realizing that paying a living wage pays back in many ways. We can do this in Guelph. We can set an example.

It’s the right thing to do.

James

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “A few words about a living wage

  1. We as a Family have been there when it comes to working two jobs to make ends meat. It taught us a valuable lessen to do better. It taught our children the value of a dollar that at this time, thankfully they are doing very well. The jobs are out there, they may not pay a lot but that alone should give incentive to do better.

  2. jimmy

    though a good idea, we cannot afford it, the city is 100 million in debt. some other time.

  3. Ron

    James, I believe the city already pays it’s full time employees a “living wage” so your argument is moot.

    • Hi Ron… we’re very close. In fact for full time employees we have 27 sorters at the waste management site who are not making a living wage. It would cost the city very little to meet that target, which is why i was dissapointed that we didn’t take the opportunity to go the extra point. If we get on board with that… we could be an official ‘supporter’ which would send a strong signal to the community

      • Ron

        What do you consider a living wage for residents of Guelph? It is my understanding that it would vary from city to city based on cost of living.

        I know that Cambridge has been considering the concept. I believe their target for a living wage was around the $17.00 per hour range . The article I read indicated that modt of their full time employees exceeded that wage.

        • gormorse@sentex.ca

          Thanks Ron…. The Poverty Task force of Guelph has determined that a living wage in Guelph is 16.50 per hour WITHOUT a complete benefit package and as low as 14.90 if a good benefits package IS included. And yes, as mentioned before only 27 full time employees are behind with this… and down the road we could address part time and contracts as well.

  4. Megan Despard

    Some could see the living wage debate as only an “ethical and moral” one, but it is so much more than that. There is a strong business case for large companies/organizations to commit to providing a living wage and I am sure that members of the Guelph-Wellington Poverty Reduction Taskforce would be more than happy to meet with Councillors and the Mayor to outline this case…. if they haven’t done so already! Yes the City of Guelph has the opportunity to lead the way for others in the Living wage movement, but they wouldn’t be the first municipality to do so. New Westminster BC, City of Vancouver, City of Port Coquitlam are all examples of municipal governments that are living wage employers.

  5. Jim

    After you wipe the tear from your eye and read the local media you realize Mr. Gordon is proposing and unnegotiated pay raise for the City of Guelph PART TIME employees. So, the fortunate few lucky enough to land a part-time job with the City will benefit while everyone else pays in higher taxes and prices. After 20 years of socialist rule at City Hall if Mr Gordon has a problem he has only to look around the Council table at his 6 like minded Councilors.

    • gormorse@sentex.ca

      Jim….. I never mentioned part-time employees in this phase of addressing the living wage. The 27 Sorters I mentioned are FULL time…. AND YES, their contract would be properly negotiatied… and it would cost us a total of 4900.00 , not each, but total, to bring them up to living wage standard. That’s not socialism. THat’s being fair to workers. We all are paying higher prices and taxes. Let’s address that. To earn a living wage means yes, you would be paying higher taxes… the prices you mention go up for us all… would these 27 be somehow excempt from price hikes? Not sure I understand that part!

      James

  6. Ron

    I have been doing some research on “living wage” . One of the qustions that arises is why is it the employers’ “moral and ethical ” obligation to pay a living wage? I believe employers have a responsibility to pay a “just” wage. That is: fair compensation for labour provided by the worker. Workers are essentially free agents in a free market economy. They can find alternate employment if they find the compensation for the services they provide insufficient to meet their lifestyle. Or they can gain experience , upgrade their skills or further educate themselves to earn appropriate compensation for their given lifestyle.
    The living wage places the sole responsibility of closing the gap on employers. Why? What is the rationale? Why should employers be singled out as the gap closers instead of society? When you and I hire lawn care workers , for example, we determine wages and prices based on the value of the services rendered not on the need of the person rendering the service. Why do we then want to mandate that businesses pay workers more than the value of the services rendered, thus distorting the market by sending false singles to workers about the value of their work and destroying jobs in the process? Forcing employers to pay more than services rendered is state mandated “charity” except that in the traditional sense, charity is freely chosen act.

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