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Five more B.C. cities commit to paying employees living wage: advocate

Last Updated Jan 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm PST

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Summary

A living wage is the hourly rate required in order to meet the basic costs of living

In 2019, five municipalites and two school boards made commitments to meet this standard

The campaign calculates the living wage each year in regions across the province

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C cities are known for high costs of living but more municipalities are buying into the concept of paying their employees a ‘living wage.’

A living wage is the hourly rate required in order to meet the basic costs of living–food, accommodation, transportation, childcare, and clothing.

In 2019, five municipalites and two school boards made commitments to meet this standard, according to the Living Wage for Families campaign. 

The District of Central Saanich became the first municipality on Vancouver Island to get the Living Wage Employer designation. In June, Burnaby climbed on board, and this coming year Living Wages will be in effect for its new service contractors.

The cities of Victoria, White Rock and North Vancouver are also on track to become living wage employers, as are the New Westminster and Vancouver school districts.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see so many governing bodies taking this policy under consideration,” says organizer Halena Seiferling. “Municipalities and school districts are often large employers in their communities, and by paying a living wage to their staff and contractors they can be champions for fair wages and can cause a positive ripple effect through the local economy.”

She says the effort has come a long way since the city of New Westminster became the first official Living wage employer in B.C. back in 2011.

There are 150 employers across the province that are currently certified.

“That does include private companies, non-profits, co-operatives, other local governments.,” she explains. “There’s a considerable number of our employers that are private companies.”

The campaign calculates what a family with two parents working full-time would need to ear to support themselves and two children.

“This is the most common type of family in B.C.,” she explains, adding the calculation includes full-time childcare for one of the two children.

It varies from place to place, as the cost of living does. The lowest is $14.03 per hour in Prince George and this highest is $19.63 per hour in Clayoquot Sound. The minimum wage in B.C., by contrast,  is $13.85 per hour.

The living wage also fluctuates from year to year, to reflect the changing cost of living. Companies need to keep up with changes in order to retain their certification.

In Metro Vancouver, the living wage for 2019 was $19.50 per hour and Seiferling says that represents a decrease from the previous year due to more subsidies for childcare.

She believes, though, that the living wage rate will go up again this year. “We don’t know by how much. Generally, year to year they go up by 0.5 to 1 per cent per year.”