On Wednesday, I attended a press conference to announce that COPE Council, School Board, and Park Board candidates support a Living Wage policy for all civic employees as well as the employees of those firms which are sub-contractors with the City, Park Board, or School Board.
The Park Board awards contracts to construction firms for the replacement or renewal of its aging community centres, rinks, and pools. A Living Wage policy would ensure that the workers of the sub-contractors will be paid a decent wage that will enable them to support themselves and their families.
The Park Board also has many casual seasonal workers – both in our recreation facilities and in the maintenance of parks – who may be paid more than the hourly Living Wage threshold as calculated by the Centre for Policy Alternatives ($16.74), but who do not work sufficient hours per week or month to earn a Living Wage on an annual basis.
Many of the Park Board’s Community Association partners have preschool and child-care programs at the community centres. Our child care providers – who perform a very important role by taking care of our children and helping them develop skills that they will use later in life – are often undervalued in terms of their wages. This sometimes forces them to seek out other part-time work which takes them away from their own families, or to leave the profession altogether, resulting in high turnover at child care facilities, causing disruption in the children’s lives and requiring more training and orientation (which can be an added expense to the employer).
I was the Treasurer on the Board of Directors at Douglas Park Community Centre in the early 1990’s when the then-NDP government recognized the contribution of Child Care workers by offering a wage-subsidy to the child care providers. I saw first hand that a better wage does encourage commitment and reduce turnover. When the Liberal government cancelled the program in 2001, the Community Associations in Vancouver that offered preschool and childcare programs were left with the choice of trying to replace the subsidy themselves – and not all community associations had the resources to do so – or charge more to the parents for the service, or risk high turnover by reducing wages.
The city of Calgary brought in a Living Wage policy for about $400,000. This is about 50% of what it costs for the City of Vancouver’s "ambassador" program. When some of our workers in Vancouver have to move out to a distant suburb because their wages do not cover the expenses of living in the City of Vancouver, something is wrong.
COPE supports a Living Wage policy so we can have a Vancouver for Everyone.