In Canada, a “living wage” to cover more than basic expenses

Emily Hoey is spending her weekend in Montreal. She works in Simcoe, Ontario, where she serves lagers for the Charlotteville Brewing Company: “Before, I didn’t have enough money to enjoy Montreal. Being paid a living wage allows me to do this kind of thing. »

Since her company joined the Living Wage Network, she has seen her salary grow by $3 an hour to $17 Canadian (€12.61), or $2,700 gross (€2,000 ) per month : “Now I can take courses at university and spend more in my city,” she rejoices.

Cover basic expenses

That living wage is calculated by Craig Pickthorne’s team at the Ontario Living Wage Network. Its amount makes it possible to cover basic expenses: rent, food, transport, clothing, but also to pay for leisure.

It varies greatly by city. In Toronto, the rich capital of Ontario where accommodation is very expensive, it amounts to 22.08 dollars per hour (16.37 €). Much more than in Kingston, much less opulent, where it is only 17.75 dollars (13.16 €). “With minimum wage, a family in Toronto can barely survive,” he is indignant.

A way to stand out

The network was created in the mid-2000s, initially to fight child poverty. “Poverty can strike all kinds of families. Faced with this, the minimum wage is a tool of the pastnotes Craig Pickthorne. It was supposed to be a standard for young people entering the job market. But in fact, many people on minimum wage already have families. And bills to pay. »

Companies wishing to be certified as “decent” must prove to the body that they pay at least the fixed wage. To be certified costs from 50 to 1,000 Canadian dollars (from 37 to 741 €) per year, depending on the type and size of the company.

Bring stability to employees

For Charlotteville Brewing Company boss Melanie Doerksen, moving to a living wage was the best thing to do: “We were already paying a little above the minimum wage. And it will increase in November. We’re going to celebrate! », she exclaims with a laugh.

Brandy Leary, artistic director of the Anandnam dance company, has guaranteed its employees, since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, the decent salary set by the NGO: “It brought stability to our employees, who were hit hard by the cessation of shows. »

A marketing tool

For Gilles Grenier, a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa, certification is above all a business marketing tool. “They buy the message that goes with the certification, that of demonstrating that they are responsible. It’s not just generosity. »

In any case, Melanie Doerksen sees it as a good way to keep her staff, when more than a million jobs are vacant in Canada, for a working population of 20 million: “Our employees all want to stay with us now. And it also brings customers, who support the process. »

Same observation with David Neinstein, owner of a restaurant in Toronto, where the transition to living wages last May was not without difficulty. “For us, to be certified, it represented a 15% increase in the salaries of our employees, he points out. And to compensate, we had to increase the prices of our menus at least as much. Some customers said they thought it was a bit pricey, but… that’s the game! Others support us. »

Minimum wage less and less relevant

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of companies that have joined the association has tripled in Ontario, to exceed 500. Enough for members of the provincial government to listen? “We have very little contact with them, they have a lack of knowledge of people’s real standard of living”, supports Craig Pickthorne. By e-mail, the government indicates that it will increase each year the minimum wage indexed to inflation. An approach “fair and balanced” for businesses and their employees, he writes.

But in the eyes of economist Gilles Grenier, “the minimum wage is less and less relevant” in this context where the balance of power between employers and employees has been reversed.

In this month of November, the calculation of the “Living Wage”, by city, will be reassessed upwards, in view of inflation (6.9% in October). “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect.says David Neinstein. But what I do know is that we will not go back. »


What is “equitable compensation”?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides in its article 23 that “everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by all other means of social protection”.

For the Catechism of the Catholic Church, at paragraph 2434, ” the fair wage is the legitimate fruit of labor. To refuse or withhold it can constitute a grave injustice (cf. Lv 19,13; Dt 24,14-15; Jas 5,4). To assess equitable remuneration, it is necessary to take into account both the needs and the contributions of each person”.


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