Here are some of my thoughts about yesterday’s “non-discussion” of the living wage.
The discussion is a good thing. It is a fact that needs to get out that people working in the service industries like food preparation, cleaning and landscaping are badly paid.
I voted against a deferral to the next council. I don’t want us to be a lame duck council for a whole year before the election. Lame duck is usually between the election and inauguration of the new council, after a new council elected. We still have a whole year of a mandate, it’s way too early to refer anything to a new council.
Why I’m against the living wage proposal.
For those of you unfamiliar with this discussion, Opportunites Waterloo Region asked council to give a living wage of a minimun of 13.23 per hour to all Regional employees. All Regional employees already earn over that amount except for contracted out services such as cleaners or student help.
For some reason, I can’t copy and paste Regional addresses today, so go to the Region website, www.region.waterloo.on.ca, click on government, then council committee agendas and minutes, then community services, then finally, the word, “here” under January 5th for more information.
1. Next week we finalize our budget and councillors will be looking at new issues that effect the poor. Some councillors have suggested that we shouldn’t move ahead with any new issues, no matter how worthy, yet they support the livng wage. For us to approve higher salaries for people working for the region then not approve for instance, the money needed to keep daycare levels for poor parents at the same level or not approve an increase in reduced bus passes for all the poor( which is a issue paper presently not recommended) just doesn’t fly for me.
Delegation by a poor person said, The wages would go up for about two hundred individuals but this would definitely bring high cost of living for everyone else and so those living poverty would actually be hit harder.”
Actually not a big increase about .2 percent increase which is about two or three dollars per year in a rough estimate.
2 Minimum wage is a provincial matter and property taxes are the most regressive tax. For instance a retiree in Waterloo in a modest home will have their taxes go sky high because they are in an area of student housing, yet they may be poorer than the cleaner earning minimum wage. Provincial and Federal taxes are based on income or consumption.
3.Struggling small businesses won’t be able to bid as easily or we will face a reduced pool of companies bidding on the contracts. And presently, many businesses are struggling.
4 But my strongest reason for not supporting the living wage proposal is as follows:
It’s an awkward way to pay people. What staff proposed was using points for choosing a winning bid. This would lead to contractors who may or may not pay a living wage, depending on the points of the tender. Tenders can have points for many things, rather than a straight lowest bid. For example, amount of work doing for the region, local office, experience with work (these are usually tenders for wells, specialized work with biosolids, etc.) The recommended option would have had 10 points for living wage among other requirements for the work as well as the lowest cost.
If council really felt strongly about a living wage for service workers, we would hire them directly. But we know that making service workers employees would mean unionization and much higher wages than the living wage.