Mak­ing ends meet?

So­cial Re­search Plan­ning Coun­cil iden­ti­fies $17.44 per hour as area’s liv­ing wage

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS - GALEN SIM­MONS STAFF RE­PORTER

What does it take for a fam­ily of four to live com­fort­ably in Perth and Huron coun­ties?

Ac­cord­ing to the United Way Perth-Huron’s So­cial Re­search Plan­ning Coun­cil, the liv­ing wage for a fam­ily of two work­ing adults and two chil­dren is $17.44 per hour over a 35-hour work week. That’s up by nearly a dol­lar from the $16.47 liv­ing wage over a 37.5-hour work week, as cal­cu­lated by the plan­ning coun­cil in 2015 when it re­leased its first liv­ing wage re­port.

“There have been a num­ber of changes,” said coun­cil di­rec­tor Su­sanna Reid. “There have been in­creased costs as a re­sult of in­fla­tion. For ex­am­ple, a nu­tri­tious food bas­ket is what we use to cal­cu­late food ex­penses, and that’s pre­pared by the (coun­ties’) two health units. In 2015, the cost of a nu­tri­tious food bas­ket was $701 a month; in 2018, it’s $737 a month.”

Method­olog­i­cal changes to the way a liv­ing wage is cal­cu­lated, as dic­tated by the On­tario Liv­ing Wage Net­work, also ac­count for the in­crease from the 2015 num­ber. Ac­cord­ing to Reid, the cal­cu­la­tion was changed to ac­com­mo­date a 35-hour work week in­stead of a 37.5-hour week based on the aver­age num­ber of hours Cana­di­ans work weekly ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada. The shorter work week also al­lows for bet­ter com­par­i­son be­tween On­tario’s re­gional liv­ing wages and those in other provinces, many of which are also cal­cu­lated based on a 35-hour week.

“A liv­ing wage means that peo­ple can make ends meet. It means that they don’t have to choose be­tween pay­ing the rent or buy­ing gro­ceries, or pay­ing for den­tal ex­penses. And it means that they can par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties. They can make de­ci­sions to par­tic­i­pate in cul­tural and recre­ational events like putting their kids into sports ... and also vol­un­teer­ing with lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and sit­ting on boards and com­mit­tees,” Reid said.

“Es­sen­tially, it means they don’t have to worry about money ev­ery day, and it also al­le­vi­ates the stigma as­so­ci­ated with liv­ing in poverty.”

Pro­vid­ing a liv­ing wage is also ben­e­fi­cial to em­ploy­ers, Reid said. Ac­cord­ing to the plan­ning coun­cil’s re­search, ben­e­fits to em­ploy­ers in­clude im­proved re­cruit­ment, em­ployee re­ten­tion, in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and morale, and re­duc­tions in re­hir­ing and train­ing ex­penses.

“We sup­port the liv­ing wage,” said Ma­cLeods Scot­tish Shop owner Rob Rus­sell in a press re­lease. “It makes sense for our em­ploy­ees and for us. The liv­ing wage makes it eas­ier to re­tain good peo­ple and em­ploy­ees can fo­cus on be­ing there for cus­tomers, not worry about choos­ing be­tween pay­ing the rent or buy­ing gro­ceries .”

Re­cently, the United Way has started work­ing with lo­cal em­ploy­ers to­ward be­com­ing cer­ti­fied with the On­tario Liv­ing Wage Net­work as of­fi­cial liv­ing wage em­ploy­ers. Cur­rently, there are only three cer­ti­fied em­ploy­ers in both Perth and Huron coun­ties. Though Ma­cLeods Scot­tish Shop is not yet cer­ti­fied, Reid said her staff is ea­ger to work through the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process with Rus­sell and other area em­ploy­ers who sup­port the liv­ing wage.

“Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of­fers com­mu­nity recog­ni­tion and pro­motes the con­ver­sa­tions about liv­ing wages in the com­mu­nity,” Reid said.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to be­come a liv­ing wage em­ployer, visit www.on­tar­i­o­liv­ing­wage.ca/ be­come_a_liv­ing_wage_em­ployer.

The Perth and Huron liv­ing wage re­flects the point at which a house­hold in ei­ther county can af­ford to meet its ba­sic needs, in­clud­ing food, hous­ing, util­i­ties, child­care, and trans­porta­tion. The liv­ing wage en­cour­ages fam­i­lies to par­tic­i­pate in the eco­nomic and so­cial life of their com­mu­ni­ties, is vol­un­tary for em­ploy­ers, and is ad­justed reg­u­larly to re­flect in­creases in the cost of liv­ing.

The new stan­dard­ized cal­cu­la­tion, set by the On­tario Liv­ing Wage Net­work, ap­plies provincewide across all par­tic­i­pat­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Roughly 50 per cent of fam­i­lies liv­ing in Perth and Huron coun­ties do not make a liv­ing wage. gsim­mons@post­media.com

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The United Way Perth-Huron held a dis­cus­sion Thurs­day morn­ing at Ma­cLeods Scot­tish Shop in Strat­ford about the So­cial Re­search and Plan­ning Coun­cil's re­cently up­dated liv­ing wage – $17.44 per hour. Pic­tured from left are shop owner Rob Rus­sell, Huron-Perth Cen­tre for Chil­dren and Youth ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Terri Spar­ling, Coun. Kathy Vas­si­lakos, owner of Co-op­er­a­tors In­sur­ance's Strat­ford branch Peter Maranger, deputy mayor Mar­tin Ritsma, man­ager of hu­man re­sources at Wood­cock Broth­ers Trans­porta­tion Group Kim­berly Richard­son, plan­ning coun­cil di­rec­tor Su­sanna Reid, Coun. Gra­ham Bunting, and United Way Perth-Huron ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ryan Erb.

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