Liv­ing wage in C-K? It’s $16.33 an hour

The Chatham Daily News - - NEWS - TOM MOR­RI­SON

Chatham-Kent’s liv­ing wage is now $16.33 an hour, which is the third low­est rate out of 15 On­tario ju­ris­dic­tions as­sessed this year.

Ac­cord­ing to the On­tario Liv­ing Wage Net­work, the liv­ing wage is $16.15 in Water­loo Re­gion and $16.05 in Thun­der Bay.

The lo­cal wage is an in­crease from $15.86 in 2014, but Phillip Mock, the project co-or­di­na­tor of the Chatham-Kent Pros­per­ity Round­table, said the two can’t be com­pared be­cause dif­fer­ent meth­ods were used to cal­cu­late the wages.

This time, the round­table used a stan­dard­ized method from OLWN, which also al­lows Chatham-Kent’s liv­ing wage to be com­pared to oth­ers for the first time.

“The big dif­fer­ence is that, with the stan­dard­iza­tion, there is some de­gree of gen­er­al­iza­tion of the data com­pared to what it was pre­vi­ously,” said Mock.

The wage is for each par­ent of a fam­ily of four work­ing a full-time job with one child in full-time day­care and one child in school.

It’s based on how much money would be needed for food, cloth­ing, hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, child care, health and life in­sur­ance, adult ed­u­ca­tion, items like toi­letries and a con­tin­gency fund.

“Any­body cal­cu­lat­ing the liv­ing wage uses the same spread­sheet and the num­bers are still com­mu­nity-spe­cific, so our rent, our util­ity rates are all Chatham-Kent num­bers, but it’s the same way cal­cu­lat­ing it,” said Mock.

Other liv­ing wages in On­tario in­clude $16.90 in Guelph, $17.44 in Perth and Huron, $18.42 in Kawartha Lakes and $21.75 in Toronto.

The liv­ing wage would be about the same for a sin­gle per­son, said Mock, be­cause their earn­ings would work out to about $30,000 and “that’s good enough for them to meet their ba­sic needs and par­tic­i­pate in our com­mu­nity.”

Mock said the stan­dard­ized method­ol­ogy was based on a job which doesn’t of­fer ben­e­fits.

So far, one Chatham-Kent busi­ness – AgMed­ica Bio­science Inc. – has reg­is­tered as a liv­ing wage em­ployer at the new wage, but 12 oth­ers had signed on at $15.86, ac­cord­ing to Mock.

Wendy Teet­zel, the hu­man re­sources man­ager at the li­censed cannabis pro­ducer, said the idea of pay­ing a liv­ing wage was around when she joined the com­pany about a year and a half ago.

“It was part of de­vel­op­ing our re­cruit­ment and at­trac­tion strate­gies,” she said. “The con­ver­sa­tion was had by our five founders about treat­ing peo­ple fairly and valu­ing peo­ple, so they made the de­ci­sion.”

The start­ing wage at AgMed­ica is $16.50 and has been since the com­pany started hir­ing at the be­gin­ning of the year, she said.

Teet­zel said she thinks em­ploy­ees who feel val­ued are likely to be more pro­duc­tive and hap­pier at their work.

Mock said com­pa­nies which pay a liv­ing wage usu­ally have lower ab­sen­teeism and higher re­ten­tion of em­ploy­ees.

“They have less costs go­ing into train­ing new em­ploy­ees, less turnover, so there’s a huge ben­e­fit to busi­nesses as well,” he said. “They re­ally are see­ing a re­turn on their in­vest­ment.”

Since AgMed­ica is still a new com­pany, Teet­zel said it is too soon to say how well the start­ing wage is help­ing the com­pany in those areas.

How­ever, she said she thinks it is one fac­tor which has helped at­tract “young ta­lent” from out­side Chatham-Kent. About 10 to 15 per cent of em­ploy­ees have re­lo­cated be­cause of the job and oth­ers drive in from out­side the area, she said.

“Not only is it of­fer­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally work in their field, but it’s of­fer­ing them an op­por­tu­nity at a fair wage,” said Teet­zel. “I think that’s very im­por­tant and it’s very at­trac­tive to them.”

On­tario’s cur­rent min­i­mum wage is $14 an hour. It was set to rise to $15 an hour in Jan­uary, but the new gov­ern­ment elected in June can­celled those plans.

Mock said he un­der­stands the view from some small busi­nesses that the jump to $14 this year was too fast, but peo­ple be­ing paid at that wage are still strug­gling.

“As we go for­ward, the dis­par­ity will get greater as the liv­ing wage in­creases and the min­i­mum wage does not move or only moves slightly,” he said. “We’re go­ing to see a lot more peo­ple strug­gling in our com­mu­nity to meet those ba­sic needs and to par­tic­i­pate fully

TOM MOR­RI­SON/POST­MEDIA NEWS

Phillip Mock, project co-or­di­na­tor for the Chatham-Kent Pros­per­ity Round­table, holds a poster ex­plain­ing ChathamKent's liv­ing wage of $16.33 an hour out­side his of­fice in the Fam­ily Ser­vice Kent build­ing in Chatham on Fri­day.

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