UWBG provides feedback to the Ministry of Labour Minimum Wage consultation process

17 October 2013

United Way of Bruce Grey has provided feedback to the Ministry of Labour Minimum Wage consultation process.http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/regional.php

A “living wage” is needed for people to avoid poverty in today’s economy. 

A recent survey carried out by the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force for the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Review submission heard from low-income wage earners of Bruce and Grey Counties.

The majority of people surveyed (total 82) were aged 45-65, with lived experience or living in poverty; they prioritized the provision of a “living wage” as the most important thing to reduce poverty for families and individuals. 

“We’ve heard over and over again how “precarious” employment is undermining a person’s ability to maintain their household budgets” explains United Way Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn.  “A single person working full-time at the current minimum wage of $10.25 would earn below the poverty line, add dependants, part-time work and the family is in constant financial crisis”

The United Way calculated that a living wage for the City of Owen Sound would be $13.21 and for Bruce Grey in general $15.11. (May 2012)  “The most significant difference between living in the rural counties verses in Owen Sound is access to transit, our calculations for the city only assessed for transit use, not a car” Dobbyn detailed.

The United Way of Bruce Grey supports the following recommendations: (see report for clarifying statements)

  • A minimum wage should bring workers and their families out of poverty.
  • The minimum wage should be calculated based on a 35-hour work week.
  • The minimum wage should be adjusted every year with the cost of living.
  • Wages for farm or migrant workers, who are currently exempted from Ontario’s minimum wage laws, be regulated.
  • Further engagement on the positive impact of an increase of minimum wage rate on Bruce Grey Counties’ business community be undertaken as part of the preparation for any increases.

An increase in the minimum wage will raise the standards for all Ontario employees. This increase will have a positive impact on those working at minimum wage and other low wage workers. The combined impact would mitigate income inequality and go a long way to reduce poverty in our community.



What Happens If You Try To Live On McDonald’s Wages: A Budget

By Claire Gordon  | Posted Jul 17th 2013 @ 11:17AM

While fast food workers across the country are asking for a “living wage,” McDonald’s has launched a budgeting website with Visa to help its employees deal better with the money they’ve got. The “sample budget” provided was greeted with sneers, and sure enough, with more realistic numbers, this McDonald’s employee would go into over $50 of debt a day.

Critics of the McDonald’s budget pointed out that it involved employees working a second job, turning off their heat, spending just $20 a month on health insurance, and never buying food or clothing. But even more glaringly, the budget ignores a fundamental fact of the fast food workforce: it increasingly includes women with children. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median age of a fast-food worker is now 28; and for women, who make up most of the workers, the median age is 32.

So AOL Jobs decided to write up a second budget for a McDonald’s employee who is a single parent with one child living in Newaygo County, Michigan, which has the average cost of living for the country. The income numbers are the same, but the expenses are based on the “budget calculator” from the liberal think tank the Economic Policy Institute, excluding tax, but with the original budget’s ambitious $100 of monthly savings.

As you can see below, our McDonald’s employee with a second job and one child will go into $1,548 of debt each month, or $51.60 a day.

Living Wage the Best Way to Fight Child Poverty

Local school board sets a responsible example for other employers

Work should lift us out of poverty.

It’s an aspiration many of us believe in, but one that eludes far too many Canadians.

There are 1.8 million people working in Canada but not earning enough to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. This includes 540,000 people working full-time, year-round but still living on incomes below Statistic Canada’s low-income cut-off. They are known as the working poor.

Provincial minimum wages aren’t cutting it. They are arbitrary, politically derived figures. For years, Ontario’s minimum wage rate has remained at $10.25 an hour while the cost of living has gone up. As a result, more and more families are struggling, falling through the cracks and forced to make impossible choices such as whether to throw their child a birthday party or purchase groceries for the week.

Paying a living wage … is about giving people opportunities to participate in society and shape their own lives.

Living wage sets a different standard that seeks to promote the social and economic well-being of everyone.

A living wage is the amount of money a worker should earn — based on a 35-hour work week — to meet a family’s basic needs and to ensure inclusion in community life. Living wage rates differ from community to community as rates reflect the costs of living in each city (Vancouver’s rate is $19.62 per hour; in Toronto, it’s $16.60 per hour; and in Hamilton, it’s $14.95 per hour).

The calculation is fiscally responsible: It includes provisions for basic needs such as rental housing, food, clothing, child care, transportation and medical expenses; but living wage also enables modest opportunities for social inclusion — such as children’s recreation. It’s a bare-bones budget — calculations do not include the costs of home ownership, debt repayment or savings.

Paying a living wage isn’t just about meeting basic needs; it’s about giving people opportunities to participate in society and shape their own lives.

Across Canada, employers are adopting living wage policies: New Westminster, B.C. became the first municipality in Canada to officially become a living wage employer in 2010. Kamloops, Calgary, Saskatoon, Kingston and dozens of other Canadian cities are actively engaged in living wage discussions supported by national organizations such as the Canada Centre for Policy Alternatives and Vibrant Communities Canada.

More than 150 jurisdictions in the United States have adopted living wage policies and last summer London hosted the first Living Wage Olympics.

Where living wages have been implemented, studies show productivity improves and there’s a significant reduction in training costs and worker absenteeism. The local economy is also helped as employees who earn more spend more in the community.

In March, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) became the first elected body in Ontario (and largest school board in Canada) to declare itself a living wage employer. It was a big step, but one that made a lot of sense.

One of the school board’s greatest challenges is the city’s 20-per-cent child-poverty rate. The equivalent of 370 classrooms of children use food banks every month in Hamilton. Child poverty is linked with greater health problems, developmental delays, behavioural and mental-health problems. Children simply can’t concentrate when they are hungry and won’t learn as effectively if their parents are stressed out about whether they will be able to pay the rent.

HWDSB has more than 7,000 employees; most live in Hamilton. When those employees, from custodians to security guards to administrative assistants, earn a living wage, that’s giving an immediate boost to the local economy and enabling 7,000 families to more fully participate in community life.

The best way to fight child poverty is to pay parents a living wage and it is one of the many approaches HWDSB has taken to address income disparity in Hamilton.

We hope the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s direction will help encourage other progressive employers in Hamilton and across Ontario to consider the benefits of paying their employees a living wage.

It’s about promoting dignity and opportunity in the workplace. It’s about building stronger, healthier, motivated and innovative communities; most importantly, living wages encourage economic prosperity for everyone.

Alex Johnstone is a trustee with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board representing Wards 11 and 12. @Alex__Johnstone

Tom Cooper is director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. @HamiltonPoverty