City of Vancouver estimates it will cost more than $1 million to lift contractors' employees to a living wage

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      The Vision Vancouver-controlled city council is poised to vote on a plan to boost the incomes of contracted janitorial, security, and graffiti-removal workers.

      City staff have recommended that elected officials approve a proposed living wage implementation plan, which would increase compensation to some of the lowest-paid workers of companies retained by the city.

      The Living Wage for Families Campaign has pegged a "living wage" at $20.64 per hour in Metro Vancouver, according to a staff report going to council this morning (September 21).

      The campaign has already certified more than 65 employers as living-wage employers, including the cities of New Westminster and Quesnel, as well as Vancity and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. 

      According to the report, all City of Vancouver employees are paid a living wage, but employees of some of the city's 4,000 contractors fall short.

      Staff have recommended the following parameters to lift some of these workers' pay:

      * a living wage must be paid for contracts in excess of $250,000;

      * service is provided on city sites;

      * the contractor or subcontractor provides ongoing service to the city;

      * work must last longer than one continuous hour per occasion;

      *  and service must be delivered on an ongoing basis.

      The report estimates it will cost just over $1 million more per year to provide a living wage for contracted workers meeting these criteria. Of that, about $266,000 would fall on the VPL and $187,000 would be absorbed by the VPD on an annual basis.

      Only four of the City of Vancouver's contracts under these criteria fail to meet this standard. They deal with janitorial work, security service, and graffiti removal.

      The report calls on council to direct staff to seek the NPA-controlled park board's "endorsement" of living-wage certification requirements related to its contracts. The Vancouver park board is a separate employer, so the implementation plan wouldn't apply to it.

      If the three NPA councillors (George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, and Melissa De Genova) vote in favour of the implementation plan, it will ramp up pressure on their NPA colleagues on the park board to follow through.

      However, if the three NPA councillors vote against the living-wage implementation plan, they could come under fire from the labour movement in the next civic election for trying to keep down wages of some of the city's worst-paid contracted employees.

      The report points out that B.C. has one of Canada's highest child-poverty rates at 20.6 percent. Vancouver exceeds that at 22 percent.

      "Almost one-third of the poor children in BC live in families with at least one adult working full time, illustrating the extent of low wage poverty in our communities," it states.