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Huron County becomes third municipality to pay living wage

Huron County became the third municipality in Ontario to encourage employers to pay a living wage. After a year of talks, businesses can now certify and commit to paying employees $17.55 an hour.

Local United Way says getting municipal buy-in is an important step in getting businesses to follow

Huron County became the third municipality in Ontario to pay a living wage. The $17.55 minimum pay rate is $3.55 higher than the province's $14 an hour minimum wage. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Huron County was recognized as a living wage employer Thursday, making it the third municipality in Ontario to be recognized with such a designation. 

The City of Cambridge and the Municipality of North Perth were the first two municipalities to be recognized as living wage employers. 

It means municipal employees will be paid a minimum hourly rate of $17.55 an hour, a rate determined by the Perth Huron United Way based on the cost of living. 

The $17.55 an hour wage is also $3.55 above Ontario's $14 an hour minimum wage. 

The cost of living wage is reviewed each year by the United Way to make sure what an appropriate rate of way is in the region, according to Ryan Erb, the executive director of the United Way in Perth-Huron. 

Erb said getting municipalities such as Huron Perth to adopt a living wage is an important step and gives local businesses an example to follow.  

"We wanted [Huron County] to pursue living wage status and they agreed to do so, so that they can set the pace for the rest of the community," he said. 

"Municipalities are large employers and they need to be good employers and so part of being a living wage is to ensure that you're paying at least a living wage to all of your staff across the board." 

The ripple effect of this move to living wage by the municipality had multiple businesses approaching Erb to get certified themselves as living wage employers. 

"We have well over 25 businesses that are certified in Perth-Huron and we have about another 20 that are in the process," he said. 

He said businesses are seeing the positive effects of paying a living wage to their employees, although it can be a difficult undertaking in terms of a burden to some the bottom lines of some companies. 

Though Erb noted the living wage certification is not difficult for businesses to get. 

"You head to the Ontario Living Wage Network website and fill out a form that gives a few details about your business and you get a call from the Living Wage Network usually after one business day," he said.

"If your company is already paying a living wage then it's pretty straightforward to certify, if you aren't but want to then you provide a plan and if it's solid then in a short order, you can also be certified." 

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