News / Toronto

University of Toronto commits to $15 minimum wage

Contractual and temporary employees at the University of Toronto are getting the same treatment as unionized workers, earning a minimum wage of $15 per hour starting this month.

U of T has already started paying its employees — both unionized and not unionized — the $15/hour minimum wage to be enacted next year.

Torstar News Service file

U of T has already started paying its employees — both unionized and not unionized — the $15/hour minimum wage to be enacted next year.

Contractual and temporary employees at the University of Toronto are getting the same treatment as unionized workers, earning a minimum wage of $15 per hour starting this month.

The move, which pre-empts the provincial legislation coming into effect next year, follows agreements reached last November between the university and employee bargaining units to raise pay to $15. Prior to those negotiations, the minimum wage for unionized workers, whether precarious or stable, was set at $13.15 per hour.

"I'm pleased that they're showing leadership with this. They weren't required to by law," said Colleen Burke, president of USW Local 1998, the union of clerical and professional employees at U of T.

The university decided to extend the same salary to casual, non-unionized staff in its quest to stay "the employer of choice," according to information on the school's website.

Burke hopes more rounds of negotiations will follow for the pay to reflect the cost of living. $15 per hour in Toronto is "not quite a living wage," she said.

"The labour movement has been trying to get to $15 for years. In Toronto now, a wage that will allow you to just get by is at least $18 an hour," she said, noting the bigger issue is to get people out of precarious employment by offering jobs with pensions, benefits and security.

As part of its Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, the Liberal government introduced the $14 per hour minimum wage this year, up from $11.60. The promise is to move it up to $15 starting next year.

Getting ahead of the legislation and treating all employees the same way is a smart move for the university, said Deena Ladd, co-ordinator for Workers Action Centre, a Toronto organization advocating for people in low-wage and unstable employment.

"In the wake of Tim Hortons outcry, I think companies are realizing there's a lot of public favour for higher wages and that they should move on board," Ladd said.

It's also timely as the province gets ready to implement the Equal Pay for Equal Work provision, starting this April.

"It simply means you cannot have a casual worker do the same work as a regular worker and be paid less," she explained.

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