Living Wage Certification

At the Cobourg Council meeting on December 2, 2019 Kristina Nairn of the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) asked that Council consider being certified as a “living Wage Employer” – that would mean that Cobourg and its contractors would have $17.95/hour as their minimum wage. Councillor Nicole Beatty moved a motion (that passed) that staff report back on the feasibility and impact on the Town with the report due March 9, 2020. So at the Committee of the Whole meeting on March 9, Interim Human Resources Manager, Colleen McBride will provide that report.  It turns out that there are three levels of certification and the Town already meets the middle level, called the LEADER Level.  To get to the top CHAMPION level requires that employees of all of the Town’s contractors must also be paid a Living wage.

Colleen McBride
Colleen McBride

Colleen (file photo at right) also explains more about what exactly a Living Wage is – there are exceptions and considerations.

Definition of Living Wage

  1. A living wage is defined as the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community.  In Northumberland County,  the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit has calculated that to be $17.95 per hour (as of Nov 2018) or $18.06 in 2020. 
  2. The calculation assumes full-time, but no reference is made to how many hours a week are worked/paid.  In the Town, non-union paid hours are 35 per week and union workers are at 40 hours/week.
  3. The living wage calculation is based on a reference family of four, which includes two adult parents who are age 35 with two children ages 3 and 7.
  4. The living wage calculation does not include:
    1. Debt repayment – student or car loans, credit card debt
    2. Savings for children’s post-secondary school education
    3. Savings for retirement
    4. Costs of pet ownership
    5. Home ownership costs
  5. The living wage calculation is inclusive of employer paid non-mandatory benefits.  This means that the cash living wage becomes $16.26/hour – the difference is paid in benefits.
  6. Only direct full or part time staff are included.  That is, “Council, students, practicum, co-op placements or interns are exempt from living wage requirements“.

Levels of Certification

As managed by the Ontario Living Wage Network.

The SUPPORTER level indicates that all direct full-time employees are paid a living wage. Part Time staff are then phased in over time.

The LEADER level indicates all direct full-time and part-time employees are paid a living wage.  The commitment is extended to phase in, over time, service contracts for third party externally Contracted employees that provide service on a regular basis (over 120 hours per year).

The CHAMPION level indicates that all direct full-time, part-time and externally contracted third party staff that provide service on a regular basis are paid a living wage or will be when applicable contracts are renewed.

The Town of Cobourg is currently at the Leader level and Colleen recommends applying for certification at that level.  There are no cost implications.  But Colleen says that “Management will be strongly encouraged on an on-going basis to enquire and support paying third party contractors a living wage.” 

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Johanne
13 March 2020 8:17 pm
Walter Luedtke
4 March 2020 11:38 am

comment image
The idea of the ‘living wage’ is not new.
The North American labour movement has promoted the ‘living wage’ concept starting in the 1880s.
A general “living wage” would enable all working men to support a family, own a home. participate in public life, and maintain an “American standard of living” higher than the squalid European working class at that time.
Alas, the idea of a male breadwinner being able to support a family now seems as quaint as a doctor making house calls and gas station attendant filling up your car, cleaning the windshield and checking the oil.

Frenchy
Reply to  Walter Luedtke
4 March 2020 2:13 pm

Cool graphic.
I can see what comes from wages, but where do the wages come from?

perplexed
Reply to  Frenchy
5 March 2020 8:03 am

Wages come from young people starting at the bottom and actually doing physical work
discovering the value of education so they have options and there fore don’t have to pump gas
cut grass etc oh I forgot they have wrights and social support they don’t have to work

Maureen
3 March 2020 12:30 am

If we decide that our community is one where earning a living wage is not possible, what is the alternative? The advances that we have made in the last hundred years have broken down the class system where there were those who had a comfortable life and those who hoped to get work and work long hours just to survive. We don’t have workhouses. But we seem to be unwilling to pay what goods and services actually cost by including the cost of labour. If our businesses cannot provide decent employment in our community, then, government could step in provide jobs by taking over some economic activities, or by paying unemployed people. They do not disappear, not here anyway. Seems to me the problem falls on the employers to pay a living wage.

Observer
Reply to  Maureen
3 March 2020 1:04 pm

Maureen – Contract employment enabled me to work in many environments from retail to office administration. I also worked as an over-the-road partner in long haul trucking travelling to many destinations and meeting with further environments. What I found. People that cared about their companies but overwhelmed by a culture within. Late arrivals, long personal phone calls people not making work a priority. I did not find slave labour environments. Pay was based on the profit line and yes comparative offerings. One company was so far in the red their accounts payable could not be met until 90 – 120 days. There was little management oversight if any. If was up to the individual mainly. In the trucking industry should have been simple – prove yourself as a driver – the load is either on time clean or late and damaged. Reward for a job done as it should be seemed to be lacking, Consideration not given. So I say to the ones it applies to it time for Canada to shape up. Why do you think you’re there for? Saddly Maureen this was the case however it was great working around working with many factors and yes I went… Read more »

MCGA
Reply to  Maureen
3 March 2020 9:55 pm

Maureen, As best I understand it we are not born with guarantees. There is a social safety net but it is not absolute and all encompassing. If you arbitrarily prescribe that employers have to pay more than the market demands than you are simply taxing them for being in business and having employees. If you require that government create make-work jobs or fund permanent unemployment benefits you are hoisting that burden on the tax payers who then have to fund that burden from their earned income. Both of these approaches seem unfair to the payer and smack of old fashioned socialism. Which brings to mind a quote from Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that you will eventually run out of other people’s money.”

perplexed
Reply to  Maureen
5 March 2020 7:57 am

I think employees have to be just as productive as they were back in the day
where Piece work was the rave and you could earn as much as you were worth and produced
no unions to control and hold back the productive because we made the rest look lazy Now we have Robots doing the piece work and they don’t complain —-. We can’t all work for the government at any level , or be teachers with marvelous pensions
What we do need is a living pension CPP OAS that keeps apace with reality so older folks can retire not having to work well into their 70 s so the jobs would open up for the next generation

Observer
2 March 2020 11:49 am

Albert – If things could be changed it would have been better if my friend, with 35 years of experience could have been given a raise above what they paid the agency people, she always made minimum or just above and I mean just. As I worked around I was surprised how so many employees reported late, spent hours of company time on personal phone calls/business yet these same employees said to me this company doesn’t give raises as the profit line became non-existent. Yes it is a very different world we live in – so many wanting something for nothing.

Observer
2 March 2020 10:39 am

Sorry Albert – Maximize their income? Exactly what do you mean? Myself I graduated at a time when Grade 12 was OK – as the time went by I took updating courses through post secondary institutions – after promotion at every job I had I decided to work contracts which enabled insight into the workforce as it stands today further gaining credibility on my resume and achieving higher paying work. Is this what you mean?

Albert
Reply to  Observer
2 March 2020 10:51 am

Our market economy encourages workers of every kind to sell their services on the labour market for the highest price – just as you did.
The only exceptions are nuns and monks who have taken religious vows of poverty.
Hope this explains things.

Observer
Reply to  Albert
2 March 2020 11:21 am

No Albert it really doesn’t. I desired to gain valuable experience and qualify for jobs that were being filled by generally university graduates. I strived to increase my skills and record of achievement thereby making me more valuable to an employer. When I entered to the workforce college or university were an option but not an absolute necessity so as time went on I upgrade to ensure my skills would be seen as desirable to hiring companies.

Observer
Reply to  Albert
2 March 2020 12:34 pm

Whatever happened to Canada the Land of Opportunity? I recall entering the workforce clasping my Grade 12 diploma. At that time there were a world of opportunities both in the private industry and government. Same circumstance of today – jobs governed by hiring category qualifications, often following ditto in promotion. Then I was judged on what I said I was – a Grade 12 Commercial Graduate with marks outlined. There was a proving ground based on job performance, attendance and overall demeanor. I don’t thing that’s offered today. Although today I would be facing it with a much higher diploma on start. A re-examination of workforce practices everywhere would be a good place to start. But whose going to do it but politicians promoting ideas. Awaiting your reply Albert – great to have a discussion with you.

Albert
2 March 2020 9:50 am

Most, if not all Canadians, try to maximize their incomes in one way or another. It’s the Canadian way.
It’s strange then that this is a surprise to many of the posters below.

MCGA
1 March 2020 10:32 pm

Various academic institutions, as well as central banks, have considered the benefits and drawbacks of living wage and minimum wage requirements. The majority conclude some short term benefit followed by mid to long term cost, including lost jobs at the entry level and some inflationary push and pull. The competitive market should prescribe the cost of labor, not a certification. And, governmental entities, that enjoy a monopoly right of billing (sometimes labeled kleptocratic), should not impose artificial wage structures, others, that being taxpayers, have to pay for.

Observer
1 March 2020 10:59 am

Ontario and Canada have been governed by the Liberals for the majority of the past. As an election unfolds they offer financial bribes to the public. I don’t know why we have 3 parties as the NDP and Liberals are now indistinguishable. People have come to expect cradle to grave government care. If you want business here they need to know they can make a profit as they compete with cheap imported goods and on-line shopping much of it eminating from outside Canada. Governments need to reduce costs not increase them.

cornbread
Reply to  Observer
1 March 2020 4:54 pm

Get an equitable trade deal with China…It’s that simple. Look what the USA is doing. Trudeau…get off your butt and start working on the economy of Canada. The latest mess with Train Travel is on your shoulders. Our GDP does not deserve your lack of action.

perplexed
Reply to  Observer
1 March 2020 6:20 pm

Yes I agree just wait and see what Trudeau and his party are going to hand out
of the Tax Payers pockets this time to Buy a way through the B C native lands all this after he buys the Failing project for Canada from his investor buddies I suppose
Hey isn’t there a law against Brokering and substituting other good investor $$$ in to a bad or already dying deal to save your buddies ????

perplexed
29 February 2020 1:39 pm

The other thing I noticed is that the Living wage is of little value if you only have part time or contract work for short periods of time .or seasonal–on top of all this our Provincial Govt has put out a Big Splash of Ending Hallway Health Care in our Hospital with Home Care and some periodic help from our under paid PSW personal service workers. and possible First responder support . So here is the Problem the same problem that existed back in the 90s The GOVT , never amended the tax laws – who stays home when the PSW is not there – who pays for the PSW by the Hr, and how many hrs. per wk would 1 family be allowed – Its AFTER Tax dollars that the working family member is spending on your loved one , and don’t count on assistive medical devices program .lets just say its not what it appears to be – Usually the sick and aged do not have enough income to absorb the expenses or write offs .associated with home care and handicapped renovations so the primary takes the hit . – and medical expense as far as I have… Read more »

Ken Strauss
Reply to  perplexed
29 February 2020 5:36 pm

Perplexed, all that you mentioned are examples of our failing healthcare system and something needs to done! Perhaps if Ms Nairn of the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit (and I suspect hundreds more like her) spent her time on health care rather than promoting meaningless, feel-good, “certification” things could be improved.

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
1 March 2020 8:11 am

Something does need to get done Ken and this government in Ontario shows signs of going in the opposite direction. There is/was enough money in the system to make health care the primary priority in their budget. But having given Billions away to Corporate and Business friends there isn’t any money left. It doesn’t help that base funding for existing healthcare is less than the cost of inflation. So cuts to health and education and taxbreaks for their friends.

Work on that problem and quit knocking people who are pushing for change to basic living.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
1 March 2020 9:11 am

Ben, your comments would be more productive if you were explicit and named the “friends” that have received the special benefits that you oppose. Are you suggesting corruption or that Mr. Ford is doing what the voters elected him to do? What should change and who should pay for your favoured changes? How will your changes affect Ontario’s economy? Will the changes make Ontario more attractive to investors or, like increasing the minimum wage, will the changes produce layoffs and business failures as another poster mentioned?

My point was that some of the health care budget is being wasted by Ms. Nairn and others to pursue meaningless gestures rather than to provide health care.

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
1 March 2020 2:04 pm

I will debate with you anytime anywhere the topic of whether a minimum wage increase is a job killer. It is not as more jobs were created the year of the increase than the previous year just one metric amongst many!

Besides if you really think that an economy based on low wages does anything to promote society I would ask for your definition of a productive society.

As to the naming of the friends how about two of the three named organisations that will administer job training programs were they sole-sourced? Just as an example of many moves that benefit the friends of this government. I hope you are just as observant when it comes to the inevitable privatisation of ambulance services.

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  ben
1 March 2020 3:57 pm

In the context of ambulance services, how do you define privatization?

ben
Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
2 March 2020 4:37 pm

How about handing over the efficient, and relatively cheap municipal operators to the US conglomerates already speaking/lobbying to get this market. At a cost to the consumers with increased user fees; within the next two years Ken

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
1 March 2020 4:44 pm

It is obvious that increasing the minimum wage will encourage the movement of unskilled work to lower wage regions. If the job cannot be moved — hamburger flipper at McD for example — there will be an effort to replace the now unaffordable worker with automation. It is just a matter of time. See https://www.forbes.com/sites/lanabandoim/2018/08/28/how-the-robot-hamburger-flipper-will-transform-food-service-in-stadiums/#8fa206163788

More importantly increasing the minimum wage will make it almost impossible for young people to get their first work experience. Why pay minimum wage to an absolute beginner if you can hire an experienced worker of known ability for the same pay?

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 March 2020 10:09 am

And, of the course,the reverse is true too.
“The European commission will take the first step towards a common framework for setting minimum wages in EU member states as part of a pledge by its new president, Ursula von der Leyen to stem a “brain drain” from east to west.” Guardian

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
1 March 2020 2:03 pm

“enough money in the system to make health care the primary priority”

The primary priority internationally, nationally, provincially, municipally is climate change.

Frenchy
Reply to  Wally Keeler
1 March 2020 7:56 pm

you left out county

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
1 March 2020 10:14 pm

deliberately

MiriamM
Reply to  perplexed
1 March 2020 7:49 am

I hear you, perplexed. Caregivers need better support including tax laws and maybe even early access to a basic pension. In the last five days, I have spent more than two thirds of my productive ‘work’ hours (day and evening) as an unpaid primary caregiver for family members. And, that is with related needed health and social agency support for the family members which has been very good to date in my experience. However, this role is like a busy part-time job but without pay. And if the caregiver can not support themselves or gets sick as a result, that is even more people needing assistance.

Observer
29 February 2020 1:00 pm

Living Wage – my friend worked in a food processing plant. The pay was minimum wage then it was raised to $14. an hour. She was very pleased at 42.5 hours a week to make $595.00. When busy they used an agency with people with no experience who made the same. Wonderful. After a year the company was in dire straits and began laying off. First all the older workers went including her after 35 years. They shorted her on severance as they were in very bad shape. Then they laid off a pile more, had to cut production as the products weren’t selling at the new cost factor. Government should make a conserted effort to reduce costs not throw more money in – the price of everything just goes up. So what about seniors factor – do they get big pension raises? – are they the new “minimum wagers” after a lifetime of work above minimum?

perplexed
Reply to  Observer
29 February 2020 4:16 pm

I have a friend who ‘s daughter was a supply teacher several years ago a
car accident on the way to work ended that with a neck and brain injury now at 40
going on 13 she is receiving get this
a Whopping big $1,115.96 per month on ODSP she had only worked for 2 yrs and
did not have enough in her CPP account to qualify for anything else
last yr she received in 2019 $1,113.– but with the cost of living increase that the GOVT.
was proud to announce she will receive a whole $2.96 more per month this year .
Now is that not some thing to be proud of !

Observer
Reply to  perplexed
1 March 2020 9:23 am

perplexed – what a horrible thing to have happen to your friend’s daughter. ODSP pays better than a CPP pension disability though. Was she not able to sue for injuries? How about the disability benefits under her employer? They usually pay out at 90% of pay.

Leweez
Reply to  Observer
1 March 2020 6:39 pm

Long term disability paying out at 90%?
Not a chance, 66 2/3% would be max

Observer
Reply to  Leweez
2 March 2020 9:47 am

Leweez – as a past payroll administrator company disability plans paid out at 90 – and I know people currently on them for other companies in addition to the ones I worked for.

Leweez
Reply to  Observer
2 March 2020 4:24 pm

Guess I’m in the wrong business😉

ben
29 February 2020 10:49 am

I think the presenters’ aim was to raise the profile of Society needing to work at a ‘living wage’. Council in its infinite wisdom decided to pat itself on their backs and tell the world what a wonderful organisation it is because they pay their employees a decent wage, despite Councillors not getting it.

What can Council do in the real world to raise the wages of its Citizens? Not much except to exert pressure on the Private Sector.

I see no sign of that in this puffery of a report.

perplexed
29 February 2020 9:53 am

Why would we classify the town as a Living wage Employer ?? must be part of that FEEL GOOD PROPAGANDA program the town likes to push in order to get those high property taxes past everyone
Yet we have stores on King st operating with Volunteers
and unpaid family members just to stay afloat
Now if we could all work for the Town it might legitimize the Idea .

Jones
29 February 2020 9:53 am

Non union non Govt taxpayers unite

cornbread
29 February 2020 9:05 am

Let the job pay what the job is worth. I wonder what kind of reception Ms. Nairn would get if she presented her case to Wal-Mart. Are we at the start of creeping socialism here?

Old Sailor
28 February 2020 6:23 pm

I thought that our 2020 budget was already set and passed. Perhaps this subject can be reintroduced before the 2021 budget is cast in stone. We don’t need another draw down on our reserves for new 2020 operating expenses.

Leweez
Reply to  Old Sailor
28 February 2020 7:35 pm

Ya let them live below the poverty line for another year

Paul Pagnuelo
28 February 2020 2:25 pm

What irony to be discussing a Living Wage when we can’t even pay our Councillors minimum wage for their hard work and dedication.

Forcing third party contractors to pay a Living Wage should be a non-starter. It is neither the Town’s jurisdiction nor does it have the moral authority to dictate how other employers are to manage their operations and payroll.

As far as Council remuneration is concerned, hire a top HR compensation firm to determine what the market value is for each of the jobs on Council and pay them accordingly. Double dipping – being paid extra to sit on County Council, CPSB, GRCA, Holdco, etc. should be banned. Some Councillors who have very heavy workloads don’t get the sweetheart deals. Time to treat everyone fairly. This is 2020 after all and the days of the old boys club and backroom deals have no place in a free and democratic society.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  Paul Pagnuelo
29 February 2020 10:25 am

Why continue harping on councillor’s pay? They knew the pay when they ran for council. If a councillor finds it unacceptable then resign.

MiriamM
28 February 2020 1:51 pm

The exclusions should be a concern. “Council, students, practicum, co-op placements or interns are exempt from living wage requirements“. In particular, students/interns who can afford to work for free because of their supporting family’s financial ability. I believe this expectation, working for free, is changing among institutions of learning. And, the student sector is composed of all ages nowadays. As for members of Council, that will change over time to be closer to how larger municipalities compensate elected council mainly because of the similarity of issues and responsibilities. I recall receiving my first pay cheque stub as a member of local Council. It listed me as a full-time employee at an hourly pay rate well below minimum hourly wage at the time.