City to investigate adoption of living wage for some city jobs

Greater Sudbury City Council has voted to have city staff prepare a report on the implications of the municipality’s adoption of a living wage for certain categories of municipal employees and contractors

The City of Greater Sudbury is considering the implications of adopting a living wage for city employees, with staff preparing a report for consideration by city council on May 17.

“Really, it’s about getting information so we can have concrete numbers to look at in May,” Ward 7 Coun said. Mike Jakubo said at Tuesday night’s finance and administration committee meeting.

“There’s been a lot of focus on living wages and I think we owe it to our whole city…to at least be able to consider that information and then maybe, if it’s the council’s will to that moment, to be able to make concrete decisions.

Jakubo, who is also chairman of the finance and administration committee, supported the motion, which was brought forward by the Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, who is vice-president.

Greater Sudbury isn’t alone in thinking about a living wage, McIntosh said, with the Region of Waterloo is also currently considering a living wage for its employees and contractors.

Greater Sudbury City Council appeared united behind the cause at Tuesday’s meeting, with every member taking part in the vote offering their support. When it came time for Ward 2 Coun. When Michael Vagnini voted during Tuesday’s virtual meeting, there was silence.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Center encouraged residents to support the motion by contacting their local council member.

“Living Wage is something that is close to our hearts and something that Sudbury employees need,” the center’s communications manager, Tt Scott, told Sudbury.com earlier this month.

“They’re stuck in poverty, they’re stuck in cycles, and they’re usually the workers who are marginalized, who are trapped in part-time or underpaid jobs.”

A Living Wage is an estimated amount of money to lift people out of poverty and enable them to interact in society, and the Ontario Living Wage Network estimates that Greater Sudbury’s living wage is currently $16.98. The minimum wage in Ontario is currently $15.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre noted that Public Health Sudbury & Districts has been advocating for a living wage for some time. On November 19, 2019, the Board of Health approved a motion that endorsed the principle of subsistence employment and “encouraged all employers in our service area to recognize the serious health and societal costs of insufficient income.

The public health motion of the day noted that “income is one of the strongest indicators of health and local data shows that low income is associated with an increased risk of poor physical and mental health in Sudbury and districts”.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Lapierre clarified that universal health care doesn’t cover everything, with some residents unable to afford certain medications that prevent them from recovering from illness as quickly as others, which can lead to their absence from work.

“It’s a big vicious circle,” he said, adding that the costs down the line, via emergency rooms and subsequent doctor visits, can end up being much higher than the drugs. that they couldn’t afford.

It is unclear how many city employees will see a pay rise due to a living wage, with that detail to be included in any report the city administration presents for the finance and administration committee meeting on 17 may.

McIntosh said there are 10 job categories in the city that could be affected, including but not limited to seasonal summer student positions. Since not all students are treated equally and may have their own financial challenges, she advocates for student inclusion.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 4 Con. Geoff McCausland drew attention to the fact that the minimum wage is a provincial responsibility and that the municipal council can only control the wages of municipal staff.

This, he said, is an important distinction, as members of the public will likely express frustration that the municipality is pushing for higher wages for its employees and not for everyone else, which can lead to resentment.

“Hopefully we can be a model in this area as it comes along, and also that the provincial government, which has seen some increases recently, will also consider maybe tying the minimum wage to a wage decent throughout the province in the years to come.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

Michael A. Bynum