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