What does it mean for the City of Vancouver to implement a living wage policy?

Deanna Ogle, Campaign Organizer and Steve Bailey, Deacon of the New Westminster Diocese of the Anglican Church stand in front of Vancouver City Hall

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016 the Mayor and Council at the City of Vancouver unanimously committed to a plan to implement the living wage for all contracts and direct staff at the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Police Department.

The City of Vancouver is demonstrating real leadership in its move to implement a living wage for all city staff and contractors. There is momentum building around the living wage in BC with Parksville and Port Coquitlam recently passing living wage policies; joining the City of New Westminster, Quesnel and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations as local governments who have successfully implemented living wage policies. 

The cost for the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Police Department to bring their lowest paid direct and contracted staff up to a living wage will be less than 0.5% of the City of Vancouver’s total third party purchasing budget. Implementing a living wage is a small cost for a big impact in the lives of low-wage workers and contractors who will breathe a little easier at the end of the month.

How many workers will be directly impacted by the living wage?

According to the staff report there are a 200 casual workers at the Vancouver Police Department and one whole group of workers (shelvers) at the Vancouver Public Library who will see a bump in wages as result of the living wage. We don’t have an exact number of how many people will be impacted at the Vancouver Public Library because it wasn’t released in the report. We do know from discussions with CUPE Local 391 (Vancouver, Gibsons and Sechelt Public Library Workers) that this job category was part-time and consisted of many casual employees. This means that two categories of direct staff most vulnerable to poverty, casual and part-time, will receive an increase in wages.

However, the largest impact of implementing the living wage will be felt by contract workers at the City of Vancouver. The city has identified three contracts: cleaning ($1.2 million in contracting), security (size of contract not identified) and graffiti removal ($1.2 million in contracting) where hundreds of workers are earning below the living wage. The Vancouver Police Department has identified one contract below the living wage and the Vancouver Public Library will be shifting their security contract to a living wage. The contracts will be renegotiated at the living wage (combination of salary and benefits equal to the living wage) as they come up for renewal over the next three years. This means that contractors will not see an increase immediately but the wages will shift when the contract is renewed.

Who is not included in a living wage policy at the City of Vancouver?

The City of Vancouver will be seeking endorsement of living wage certification requirements from the Vancouver Park Board. This would mean that the Vancouver Park Board would include the living wage in their own contracting. This motion was passed by council but NPA councilors Melissa de Genova, George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball voted against it.  A motion brought forward last September by Park Board Commissioner Catherine Evans to endorse the living wage is waiting for a report from Vancouver Park Board staff before proceeding. We will have to work to ensure that politics does not get in the way of workers being able to meet the costs they face in their communities.

The City of Vancouver has requested a report back on certification process and analysis of the impacts for other civic agencies to become Living Wage Employers, this includes the PNE and Easypark. Many workers at the PNE site are working for well below the living wage for up to 7 months of the year or longer. These workers deserve the living wage.

This is a victory for all of us. We want to thank all the workers who participated in the Adopt-a-Councillor Campaign as well as everyone who has made it out to council meetings, sent letters of support and participated in events supporting the living wage.

Work should lift you of poverty, not keep you there.