What difference would it make for the government to pay a living wage to all direct and contract staff? Don’t all government workers already earn a living wage?
Most direct staff who work for the government of BC earn a living wage. We rely on our provincial government for a diverse range of supports including health services, services for children and youth and education. It is reassuring to know that these workers are earning at least a living wage.
However, the provincial government has not ensured that contract workers are able to make ends meet. Important services like cleaning our hospitals and caring for our elderly and people with disabilities are being contracted out at low wages. We can do better.
Paying a living wage to all direct and contract staff is an opportunity for the provincial government to support good jobs across BC. Hear from Catalina what a difference a living wage would mean for her.
I can barely afford to cover my costs now. If wages go up so will the cost of everything in the stores.
Seattle is a real-life example that shows how increasing wages factor into how much items cost us at our local store. When Seattle committed to raise their minimum wage to $15/hour, researchers started studying consumer prices for goods. They found that the increase in minimum wage had no impact on the prices of goods; costs went up by the same amount in Seattle as they did in surrounding communities that didn't raise their minimum wage (University of Washington Minimum Wage Study, 2016). Prices go up for many reasons but paying a living wage means that people are able to afford to make ends meet while costs increase.
We already pay too much in taxes. I don’t want my taxes to go up if it costs us more to deliver services.
Poverty costs us all. In 2011 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that poverty costs our province $8 billion a year; the cost to our health-care system alone is $1.2 billion a year. In contrast implementing a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy would cost $4 billion. Taking action on poverty is more cost-effective than doing nothing, and implementing a living wage is one key to alleviating working poverty in our communities.
Some people in BC have been getting tax cuts. The top 1% of income earners have received an average tax cut of $39,000 per year over the past 16 years compared to an average reduction in taxes of $53 for the bottom 50%. If we reversed these tax cuts for the top 1% (those earning more than $400,000) we could reinvest in strengthening our public services.
Low wages only affect students and young people – they don’t need a living wage.
A significant number of low-wage workers have families. Paying the living wage will lift these families out of poverty. In BC, one out every three poor children live in families with at least one adult working full time, year round (BC Child Poverty Report Card). For example, if we look at workers earning $12-$15/hour only 5% are teenagers and 21% were young adults (The Case for Increasing the Minimum Wage, 2015). Many families across BC are struggling to make ends meet on low wages.
What is the difference between the living wage and minimum wage?
The minimum wage is set by the provincial government. Thousands of families making the current minimum wage in BC are still living below the poverty line. In fact, using statistics from 2014 (the most recent statistics available) a single mother with one child earning the minimum wage would have an income that is $9,500 below the poverty line (still1in5.ca). Minimum wage has only increased by $0.65/hr since 2014 and would still be insufficient to lift a single mother out of poverty.
A living wage calls on employers to meet a higher standard, to ensure that wages for their staff and major contractors reflect the true costs of living in a community and that parents can earn what they need to support their families. Learn what the living wage is in your community.
Through increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour and paying a living wage to all direct and contract staff, the provincial government can begin to reduce the rate of working poverty across BC. We can make a difference on the issue of working poverty.