British Columbia

Fair pay or playing politics? Vancouver city council debates living wage

Vancouver could move one step closer to becoming a living wage employer as council today debates the policy.

Should all city workers, including contract workers, earn a living wage?

Although costs are rising in Metro Vancouver, Living Wage for Families says tax benefits have evened those expenses out. (Shutterstock/Casper1774 Studio)

Vancouver could move one step closer to becoming a living wage employer as city council today debates a report on paying all city staff  — including contract workers — at least $20.64 an hour.

Councillor Geoff Meggs says the report will shed light on just how much the potential move would cost.

"What we ask for in this report is to understand the impact and the steps that would be needed," said Meggs. "That's what we have in front of us."

A living wage is defined as the amount two working adults supporting two children would need to cover basic expenses. A report released earlier this year pegged the Metro Vancouver living wage at $20.64 an hour.

Most city workers already earn at least $20.64 an hour but the idea is to include those who do contract work for the city, including food service work and security.

City staff estimate the move would cost Vancouver taxpayers about a million dollars per year.

According to Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, there's a political agenda driving the living wage debate.

"Vision Vancouver and their union partners have long had a goal of eliminating contracting out at Vancouver city hall. Of course, making it more expensive to contract out services is a good way of doing that," he said. "It's always easy to be generous with other people's money."

During the last civic election local unions, non-profits and faith-based organizers came together to urge the city to become a living wage employer.

The report also recommends the Vancouver police department, the park board and the public library also consider adopting the living wage policy.

With files from Farrah Merali


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