Earning enough money to have the daily necessities is a struggle for a majority of the Canadian population and one that needs to be addressed. The Ontario Living Wage Network has been partnering with several organizations in Niagara to address this issue in order to wipe out poverty. Its most recent partnership is with local business Beechwood Doughnuts.
Communities in Ontario base the calculation for living wage off of the National Living Wage Framework which was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. A living wage is clarified to be “the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community and reflects the cost to cover living in their communities”.
“Living wage is calculated based on the needs of a family of four with two parents each working full-time, full-year. It would also support a family throughout the life cycle so that young adults are not discouraged from having children and older workers have some extra income as they age,” said Anne Coleman, the Campaign Manager for the Ontario Living Wage Network. “The living wage is a participation wage that employers decide to pay because it’s the right thing to do and is a practical tool to reduce poverty through paid work.”
In November of 2018, the living wage for the Niagara Region was calculated to be $17.99 an hour. This wage includes food, shelter, transportation, child care, medical expenses, recreation and a modest vacation. It does not include retirement savings, debt repayment, home ownership, savings for a children’s education or anything other than a small cushion for emergencies.
The majority of Canadians are living off of minimum wage, a wage that is not calculated based off of what an individual needs to live in their community, but rather a wide-encompassing benchmark set by the provincial government. Minimum wage is the same across Ontario, but living wage reflects what individuals need to cover the cost of simply living.
“Employees working full-time and earning the minimum wage of $14 an hour are earning less than the Low Income Measure in Ontario,” said Coleman. “This wage is mandatory for many occupations but the living wage is a voluntary commitment of employers to go beyond the minimum standard and pay enough for employees to cover their expenses and participate in [their] community.”
“For years the minimum wage has been too low to live even [for] someone working full-time, full-year above the poverty line. The living wage is based on the principle that if you work full-time, full-year you should earn enough to make ends meet and participate in your community. Paying a living wage is a good business strategy. Our certified employers continue to tell us they spend less money on hiring and training due to higher staff retention rates. Employees are more productive and provide higher quality work because they feel appreciated in the work place and are healthier with less financial stress.”
Beechwood Doughnuts, Niagara’s first and only vegan donut shop, calling St. Catharines, Ontario home, became the newest Ontario Living Wage employer on March 10.
“It is important to be a living wage employer because everyone deserves to make enough money to make ends meet — no matter their type of work,” said Tayler Book, co-owner of Beechwood Doughnuts. “We believe in providing a better quality of life for our staff because it is simply the right thing to do. Overall, wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living and that’s a huge problem.”
“No one should have to work over 40 hours a week at multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. It should be a right, not a privilege for all working people to make a living wage. This is the main reason why we decided to publicly join the Ontario Living Wage movement. I work with my staff almost every day in the store and there is no way Shane and I could keep this place up and running without the help of every single one of our employee’s. Our staff help us so much, why wouldn’t I want to do the same for them?”
Beechwood Doughnuts joins Niagara Pallet, PenFinancial Credit Union, Women’s Place of South Niagara Inc., Glen Walker and Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre as living wage employers.
Individuals interested in learning more about Ontario’s Living Wage should visit ontariolivingwage.ca.