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The Truth about Minimum Wage

On March 16, the new Premier Christie Clark announced that BC's minimum wage will increase as, "a fair and reasonable step forward in putting families first and building our economy." While legislating a higher minimum standard that employers need to meet is perhaps a move in the right direction, this standard is still a long way from “putting families first”!

The following is information about what a family living in Vancouver really needs—a "living wage".

What is a Living Wage?

At $18.81 per hour for Metro Vancouver — or $34,234 annually for each parent working full-time — the living wage covers only bare bones expenses. This living wage calculation does not cover:

  • credit card, loan, or other debt/interest payments
  • savings for retirement or for children’s future education
  • owning a home
  • anything beyond minimal recreation, entertainment, or holiday
    costs
  • costs of caring for a disabled, seriously ill, or elderly family member
  • much of a cushion for emergencies or tough times

The living wage is about pay, but also about non-wage benefits and the value of social supports & programs.

The Living wage is different from the minimum wage, which is the legislated minimum set by the provincial government.

The living wage calls on employers to meet a higher standard for both their direct staff and major contractors– it reflects what people need to support their families based on the actual costs of living in a specific community.

Some truths about the Living Wage

  • Myth: Increasing wages will hurt business.
    Fact: Paying a living wage expands economic activity. Higher pay results in increased productivity by making jobs more desirable to both get and to keep, thereby reducing recruitment, and training costs associated with high turnover.

  • Myth: Passing a living wage policy is bad for the local economy; small employers will close.
    Fact: A living wage policy is good for the local economy. Small businesses draw their customers from the local community. Higher incomes allow families to purchase more goods and services in their neighbourhoods.

  • Myth: Tax credits and better educational opportunities are better ways to help the low-wage workers.
    Fact: Income supplements, accessible education and other supports for families are important parts of creating healthy
    communities. But employers must do their part and pay a decent wage for hard-earned work; otherwise the taxpayer is left to subsidize their wage bill.

  • Myth: If wages increase, the cost of everything else will go up.
    Fact: Costs rise all the time without workers receiving a pay increase. Wages are just one of many factors that make up the cost of an item. Even in labour intensive sectors such as restaurants, increases in the minimum wage had a tiny impact on prices with no loss in business.

  • Myth: Companies will go elsewhere if the city has a living wage policy.
    Fact: The quality of life and the ability to attract a knowledgeable workforce are the main considerations for companies when they decide where to locate. Strong communities and good health, education and public services attract good employers.

  • Also many companies that can relocate pay far in excess of the living wage. Many low-wage business are actually "support" businesses like restaurants, cleaning companies and retail outlets with little ability and wish to relocate.

    The Living Wage Coalition is hosting a public forum in Vancouver:
    Monday, April 11, 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

    Alice McKay Room – Vancouver Public Library
    350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
    Come learn more there or visit the website:
    http://livingwageforfamilies.ca/