Do you enjoy a living wage?
City hall might have said no to the idea in the past, but it hasn’t deterred Seth Klein from coming to Kamloops and speaking on behalf of a living-wage policy.
The B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is hoping more communities in the province adopt the idea.
The living wage, which is separate from the minimum wage, describes an income necessary for a family of four with two working parents to afford the basics of life.
A living-wage calculation includes basic expenses (such as housing, child care, food and transportation) for a family with two young children, as well as government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies.
Klein believes the the living-wage policy is a way for private companies and large public-sector employers to do their part in poverty reduction.
“The living wage really captures what the role is of an individual employer and what the role is of the municipal government, in terms of setting a higher bar,” he said, adding the budget used by the CCPA to get the number is bare bones.
The CCPA, which is leading the living-wage campaign, has calculated the number in Metro Vancouver to be $18.17 per hour in 2010, but a calculation hasn’t been done for Kamloops.
However, Klein suggested the number could be about $15 to $16.
Last year, New Westminster became the first municipality in Canada to adopt a living-wage bylaw for all its employees and contract employees.
The policy means anyone working on city property for more than an hour must receive the hourly living wage.
Klein said the policy came at little cost to the taxpayers of the Royal City, noting only a handful of employees were at wages below the living wage.
As for contracts, he said the policy did come with a higher price, but estimated it was only about one per cent of that city’s budget.
Klein contends if there is a critical mass of employers in a community who become living-wage employers, it will create a market for those private service providers who in turn pay a living wage.
He said those companies then get a recruitment and retention advantage over their competitors by holding onto employees.
Klein also noted benefit packages offered by each company can offset and lower the living wage.
He said the typical answer from government regarding combatting poverty, especially the current B.C. Liberal government, is to create more jobs and have low unemployment.
But, he argued, many of the poor in the province have jobs.
“The vast majority of poor children in B.C. have a parent with paid income,” Klein said.
Klein believes the standard would only have a small inflationary effect.
He argued wages reflect just one part of the cost of goods and services.
Last year, KTW asked city administration if it would consider a living-wage policy for city employees and contracts, but there was little interest in the idea.
Randy Diehl, the city’s chief administrative officer, argued at the time that setting wage standards is the responsibility of senior levels of government, which have much higher taxing authorities than cities.
He said when the city puts out a contract for work, it wants to get the best service for the lowest price possible.
For now, Klein is hoping a group in the community will take on the task of figuring out the city’s living wage.
For more information on the CCPA’s living-wage campaign go online to livingwageforfamilies.ca.