Jul 25

Mayor Goldring inquires about bringing living wage to City of Burlington


Mayor Rick Goldring is asking city staff to find out what it would take to make Burlington a living wage employer.

The issue came up during a recent committee of the whole meeting on June 26 where Goldring brought forward a motion to direct the city’s human resources director to analyze the City of Burlington’s current wage structure to see if it was a fair wage employer.

If it was found it wasn’t, the direction was then to quantify what kind of an investment would be needed from the city to close the gap relating to fair wages for full-time and part-time staff.

Once that data is collected, the committee would then decide if any action is needed to close the gap.

“I believe it’s critically important that we quantify the issue and that’s what this staff direction is all about,” Goldring told the committee.

“I think we know the food banks in Burlington are doing a healthy business, unfortunately, and one of the challenges we’re having in our society is poverty is more systemic than it is atypical and this is a opportunity for the City of Burlington to play a leadership role in trying to encourage other employers to be fair wage employers as well,” he continued.

“At this stage, I wouldn’t want to presuppose any conclusion, all I’m simply asking is for your support in asking (staff) to bring back the information and have a discussion after that and make some decisions about what our approach should be.”

The Ontario Living Wage Network defines a living wage as the hourly pay a worker needs to earn in order to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community.

It is re-calculated periodically to ensure it accurately reflects changing living expenses and based on the National Living Wage Framework — as of April 2017, the hourly living wage in Halton is $17.95.

The program can be implemented in a phased-in approach beginning with all full-time employees, followed by all part-time staff and then all contracted staff that provides service on a regular basis.

At a poverty summit held in Hamilton in April, Goldring said he heard from private and public sector companies and organizations during a panel discussion that had become living wage employers.

“Hearing the panellists talk about the cause and result of making themselves a fair wage employer for me was overwhelming not to come back to this chamber and suggest that we take a look at quantifying it,” he said.

“They reported their employees are happy and more productive, they a have a strong retention of their workforce, very little absenteeism and they have a positive impact on their local community.”

City Manager James Ridge told committee members analyzing the implications of implementing a living wage would have to be done in parallel to the recently announced increase to the provincial minimum wage to $15.

“(It) would take us some way, but not all the way, to the local fair wage,” he said.

“But it also has implications on how we pay part-time staff and a range of other implications as well. So, they’re almost inseparable. What we’d like to do, if this motion passes, is to bring back an analysis of both because with what the province is proposing, it actually takes you some distance towards a living wage, which we’re going to have to do anyway, if it passes into law,” he added.

“So, we’d like to do both of those together and report back.”

Hearing from Laura Boyd, director of human resources at the city, there would be difficulties in getting accurate data to see the implications of extending the living wage to contract staff, Goldring amended his original motion to remove contract employees from being included at this time.

That prompted a concern from Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, who also chairs the committee.

“I support the notion of a living wage, (but) I certainly have some concern, especially now that the motion has been amended to exclude what I think are the most vulnerable groups — I would prefer to have that added back and perhaps scoped to excluding procurement over or under a certain amount,” she said.

“I think we’ve kind of taken a step back from looking after our most vulnerable folks here.”

Meed Ward also raised concerns over those working in the public sector, who “can raise taxes,” asking people who don’t make a living wage to pay for its implementation at the city.

“It is a balancing act — we do need the information. I think we need more than what we’re being asked to get back here,” she added.

Goldring responded that he agreed with Meed Ward’s sentiment.

“And if between now and council, there was a way to craft an amendment that is amenable to the majority of council that would be scoped out and be very clear on what that is, I’m open to the consideration of that,” he said.

At Monday’s (July 10) council meeting, the item was further amended to include select contract workers, specifically cleaning and security staff.

It unanimously passed, as amended.


Link to article in Burlington Post here

This story was updated from its original version on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.