Stephanie Ryan: Surrey council should do the right thing and endorse living wage

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      The time has come for Surrey to follow the lead of New Westminster and endorse a living wage policy.

      A “living wage” is meant to reflect the actual income required for a two-earner, two-child household to live above the poverty line. Adopted at the civic level, it would apply to anyone working for the city. As most city staff are all already above this level, the policy is aimed at independent contractors working for the city.

      The living wage policy passed unanimously by New Westminster council last year will see workers paid at least $16.74 per hour. Last month, Esquimalt passed a similar policy, and the municipalities of Cowichan, Williams Lake, and Cranbrook are considering it.

      Living wage policies are currently being advocated for by ACORN Canada, the B.C. Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the latter having recently calculated that a living wage for families is $18.17 an hour in Vancouver and $17.30 in Victoria.

      If Surrey were to do the right thing and endorse such a policy, it would not be the first time.

      In 1993, Surrey Civic Electors councillor Gary Robinson and then-mayor Bob Bose were successful in implementing a living wage for the city. At the time, Robinson explained that contractors providing flag services for the city were paying substandard wages to their employees, the majority of whom were women.

      Surrey Civic Coalition councillor Bose will table a motion in the next few weeks to Surrey council to revive this idea.

      Mayor Dianne Watts’s response thus far has been that she is not inclined to tell businesses what to do, or what not to do.

      But there should be unanimous support for reducing poverty amongst families and children in our community, across party lines, as there was on New Westminster council.

      A November 3 article by Peter Hall in BCBusiness declares that “living wages send a message of value to employees – and although not free, they are not an overwhelming expense”.

      Hall says that annual contract costs in New Westminster are expected to increase by $150,000 or less, about one-tenth of one percent of city revenue. “Even in a recession, that’s a small price to pay to communicate the real value of work,” Hall wrote.

      If business leaders understand this, surely Surrey council can too.

      Stephanie Ryan is the president of the Surrey Civic Coalition.



      David Tate

      Feb 8, 2011 at 10:05pm

      I would like to see this pass in Surrey also.
      It's not a matter of telling businesses what to do. It's a matter of how tax payer money is being spent and who in befitting from it.
      If the employer does not want to pay his people a Living Wage he does not have to sign a contract with the city!!!!

      David Tate.
      Chair. New West A.C.O.R.N.

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      Feb 9, 2011 at 12:13am

      just saying, but stephanie is an inspiration to youth who want to get involved in politics. such a breath of fresh air!

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      Deborah Littman

      Feb 9, 2011 at 5:46am

      Here in the UK hundreds of municipalities,universities, hospitals, charities and private companies have adopted living wage policies, putting an estimated £40 million more into the pockets of low wage workers over the past eight years, taking thousands of families out of poverty and boosting local economies. Universally employers have found that the living wage brings real business benefits. As Guy Stallard, Director of Facilities - KPMG Europe says, " We have found that paying the Living Wage is a smart business move as increasing wages has reduced staff turnover and absenteeism, whilst productivity and professionalism has subsequently increased." Surrey has every good reason to pass this motion.

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      Feb 9, 2011 at 9:17am

      It's a ludible objective. However, both sides of the story need to be on the table. Council and voters need to see a realistic projectin of how much extra this motion will cost taxpayers, if any.

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      Feb 9, 2011 at 4:53pm

      There should be no discussion as to whether or not business support it. People have the right to a fair wage for work performed.

      If business doesn't agree well, to bad. Single parents have for too long have suffered while business has enjoyed the benefits of working people and the poor's labour. It's not a matter of right or wrong, it's fair and right. Let's be fair and right.

      The fair wage will ensure children don't go to school hungry, more money will be spent in the community and everyone will benefit. End of story.

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      Peter Andrews

      Feb 10, 2011 at 5:52am

      Maybe you should have a word with the thousands of low-income workers who will lose their jobs as a result of this ridiculous plan.

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      Feb 10, 2011 at 3:05pm

      A living wage policy is the right thing to do. Low income earners are why we have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. If parents do not make a living wage the children will continue to live in poverty and we all know the effect of long term poverty: increase in health issues, increase in crime, increase in homelessness, etc.
      thousands of low income workers will not lose their jobs if a living wage policy is implemented. No one is forced to do business with a civic government. What the civic government would simply be insuring is that they are getting value for their money, that the money paid to workers would reduce poverty, etc.
      If Diane Watts is as smart as some people would like to think she is she will get on with implementing such a policy. if she doesn't well we will certainly know who's side she is on and it isn't the people who have to work for a living in low paying jobs, which in the time in B.C. is a great many.

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