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Living Wage fails to get Pitt support

The Living Wage for Families Campaign, along with 54 organizations representing more than 300,000 British Columbians, issued an open letter to candidates during the last civic election, urging them to help low-income families by passing a living wage policy.  - livingwageforfamilies.ca
The Living Wage for Families Campaign, along with 54 organizations representing more than 300,000 British Columbians, issued an open letter to candidates during the last civic election, urging them to help low-income families by passing a living wage policy.
— image credit: livingwageforfamilies.ca

A "living wage" bylaw failed to get the support of Pitt Meadows council Tuesday as putting the policy into practice would cost the city too much.

Championed by anti-poverty activists, a living wage calculates the cost of living for a family of four in a region and determines how much you need to earn in order to live there.

The living wage calculation for 2012 now sits at $19.14 per hour for Metro Vancouver for each parent working full-time.

A living wage bylaw would set a target above B.C.'s minimum wage for workers who work directly for the city or those whose receive city contracts.

The Living Wage for Families Campaign, along with 54 organizations representing more than 300,000 British Columbians, issued an open letter to candidates during the last civic election, urging them to help low-income families by passing a living wage policy.

Thus far, only the New Westminster has signed on.

For Pitt Meadows Coun. David Murray, putting such a policy in place have shown struggling families that the city cares.

"Simply put, it's the right thing to do," said Murray, secretary-treasure for CUPE's Fraser Valley District Council. "I thought the living wage would start chipping away at helping to make things a little bit better."

Murray wanted to find out how much implementing a living wage bylaw would cost the city, but failed to get support from his colleagues.

Only Coun. Bruce Bell voted in support of his motion.

In New Westminster, the initial costs of implementation were pegged at $150,000, taking about a year to put in place.

Surrey, meanwhile, estimated that living wage costs could be as high as $10 million to $16 million a year.

Pitt Meadows contracts out more city services than New Westminster and shares policing and parks services with neighbouring Maple Ridge, which does not support the living wage.

A city staff report noted that although admirable in terms of a policy, implementing it would be quite complex.

"Look at the amount of positive press the City of New Westminster had by doing this. I think we missed an unbelievable opportunity," said Murray.

His colleagues believed that implementing a living wage bylaw would be delving into an issue that's should be tackled by their provincial or federal counterparts.

Mayor Deb Walters noted the policy cost New West more than $100,000 to implement and would require additional staff to monitor it over time.

"We felt all of our staff already met the living wage standard in Pitt Meadows, so we didn't feel it was something we needed to address," Walters said.

"We can't mandate other businesses to do it. But within the city, we pretty much practice it anyway."

 

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