British Columbia

Ucluelet First Nation adopts living wage policy

Ucluelet (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ) First Nation has become the second First Nation in Canada to implement a "living wage," or a wage intended to cover the basic costs of living.

First Nation is the second Aboriginal government to make the move

The Ucluelet First Nation will be the second First Nation in Canada to implement a living wage policy. (CBC)

Ucluelet (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ) First Nation has become the second First Nation in Canada to implement a "living wage" or a wage intended to cover the basic cost of living.

Employees of the First Nation government will now be paid $20.11 per hour, a wage based on the rising cost of living in Ucluelet.

"The cost of living is extremely high where we live, and I wanted to ensure our people do not suffer unfairly as a result, said Ucluelet First Nation president Les Doiron.  

"The new living wage is really going to make a difference for our people".

A living wage is based on the living costs for a two-parent family with two children, with each parent working full time. The living wage for the Ucluelet, B.C., region is calculated by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, which bases the wage on the local cost of necessities like food, housing, transportation and child care.

In the Ucluelet First Nation, the cost of living is so high that many people working minimum wage must work multiple jobs to make ends meet. 

"It means I won't have to work a second job, and I can spend more time with my family, including two young kids," said Celena Cook, a Ucluelet First Nation government employee.

Deanna Ogle, the campaign organizer for the Living Wage for Families Campaign, said that having more than one job is common for people working for minimum wage in that region.

"People are making up that difference by adding on additional work. Often, they are having one, two or three jobs to make ends meet," said Ogle. 

"They aren't able to cut back on rent costs, because they have such limited housing options in these smaller communities and the cost of groceries is non-negotiable when you don't have a lot of grocery stores to choose from."

In 2014, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation was the first in Canada to implement the living wage policy for its government employees. Recently, they have expanded the policy to include all employees of businesses owned by the First Nation. 

"It is ultimately something their membership is very proud to be able to do," said Ogle. "It's a way of walking the talk on our values of caring for one another in the community."

Across B.C., there are currently over 80 living wage employers, including the governments of Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Parksville, New Westminster and Quesnel.