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Coquitlam, British Columbia: Why a 'living wage' matters
Coquitlam Now

September 2, 2011
View the Original Article


Editor's note: This piece was submitted by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1518.

Across Canada, the United States and Great Britain, the concept of a "living wage" is taking root.

Awareness that the wages of working people have a direct and significant bearing on the health and growth of local communities and their economies has led to a variety of municipalities and jurisdictions adopting living wage policies and legislation.

In Canada, New Westminster has become the first municipality to adopt a living wage bylaw.

In Great Britain, large corporations such as KPMG and Barclays Bank have adopted living wage policies, and London's upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics will be a "living wage" Olympics.

The ability to earn a living wage means workers are able spend more in their community, all of which sustains local businesses and the community tax base, fostering a greater quality of life for everyone in the community.

For more information on the living wage, please see www.livingwageforfamilies.ca and www.livingwagebc.com.

SOME TRUTHS ABOUT THE LIVING WAGE:

Myth: Increasing wages will hurt business.

Fact: Paying a living wage expands economic activity. Higher pay results in increased productivity by making jobs more desirable to both get and to keep, thereby reducing recruitment, and training costs associated with high turnover.

Myth: Passing a living wage policy is bad for the local economy; small employers will close.

Fact: A living wage policy is good for the local economy. Small businesses draw their customers from the local community. Higher incomes allow families to purchase more goods and services in their neighbourhoods.

Myth: If wages increase, the cost of everything else will go up.

Fact: Costs rise all the time without workers receiving a pay increase. Wages are just one of many factors that make up the cost of an item. Even in labour-intensive sectors such as restaurants, increases in the minimum wage had a tiny impact on prices with no loss in business.

Myth: Companies will go elsewhere if the city has a living wage policy.

Fact: The quality of life and the ability to attract a knowledgeable workforce are the main considerations for companies when they decide where to locate. Strong communities and good health, education and public services attract good employers.

Also, many companies that can relocate pay far in excess of the living wage.

Many low-wage businesses are actually "support" businesses like restaurants, cleaning companies and retail outlets with little ability and wish to relocate.