News / Vancouver

Mandatory living wage a success in first Canadian municipality to adopt the practice

The Vancouver suburb was the first municipality in Canada to introduce a living wage in 2011 and the city says it hasn’t seen any negative impacts.

Metro Vancouver's living wage is set to $20.68 per hour.

Jeff Hodson/Metro

Metro Vancouver's living wage is set to $20.68 per hour.

Four years into its trailblazing experiment, the City of New Westminster stands by its living wage.

Vancouver has garnered headlines this year for passing a motion to make itself a living wage employer.

And as more municipalities consider implementing the policy – which strives to pay its employees and those contracted to do city jobs enough to cover food, clothing, shelter and transportation costs – New Westminster director of human relations Joan Burgess says her city has no regrets since becoming the first Canadian city to adopt a living wage in 2011.

“I haven’t seen any negative impact [since council adopted the living wage],” said Burgess, whose city pays each of its employees at least the $20.68 an hour set as the region’s living wage.

Burgess said the council of the day saw the living wage as a way of addressing poverty, even if it was just “one little step” in the grand scheme of things.

Most civic employees were already meeting the living wage – which is calculated by comparing salaries and benefits against the region’s costs of living – so topping up the remaining municipal workers was fairly easy.

Burgess said contracts have also fallen in line, as they’re required to sign living wage declarations in order to secure contracts.

In the four years since being implemented, Burgess said the city has received just four complaints of subcontractors not receiving a living wage.

Each situation was swiftly remedied after an audit, she said.

“[Employers] know they must be paying a living wage if they’re doing any work on behalf of the city,” said Burgess.

If they don’t, “they know that they’re jeopardizing future work with the city,” she added.

Any employees who feel they are being denied a living wage are urged to contact the city and Burgess said the city is considering signage at work sites to enhance awareness and self-reporting.

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