For Ottawa’s living earners, the extra dollars make a big difference
Living in Ottawa is expensive, as is running a business, as rising inflation drives up the cost of everything from food to fuel.
But some companies are willing to pay their employees more than the bare minimum, even after two years of COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions have eroded results.
And it makes a difference, say their employees.
The Ontario Living Wage Network defines a living wage as the hourly rate a person must earn to cover basic expenses – food, clothing, housing and transportation among others – and participate in the community.
In Ottawa, that works out to $18.60, according to network calculations. The general minimum wage in Ontario is currently $15.
Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen, Aiana Restaurant Collective and Knifewear are three of 12 Ottawa businesses certified by the Network as Living Wage Employers.
“A bit of freedom”
Neha Sindhwani, 24, works in Moo Shu in the city center and started earning a living wage there last month.
She started working at the store four years ago and said she had to watch every dollar she spent closely. But now she has a little more financial flexibility and doesn’t have to panic with every vet bill for her cat.
“I’ve definitely noticed that I can have a bit of freedom in what I get in terms of groceries or in terms of necessities,” Sindhwani told CBC Radio. Ottawa Morning.
“And it’s actually really amazing to notice that it’s not as awful when I have to pay a vet bill, because I have that little bit extra that comes from having a living wage.”
Ottawa morning11:02Moo Shu Ice Cream, the latest local company to offer its employees a living wage
Minimum wage insecurity ‘a scary thing’
Luca De Marinis was a chef for a decade before taking a sales job at knife shop Glebe Knifewear, where he had been a customer for years.
“Knowing that they were a living wage business as a customer always made me feel good. And when it was time for me to…leave the restaurant industry, and I saw this job posting , I jumped on it,” said De Marinis. .
“This insecurity of being paid minimum wage in a world that doesn’t really allow you to get by is a scary thing.”
Robert Lemieux, sommelier and server at Aiana downtown, said the living wage hasn’t affected his finances much, as he’s nearing the end of a decades-long career and his assets are already paid off.
But it helps recruit young people, he said.
‘Employers should be proud’ of paying a living wage
“This [makes] a difference when we try to encourage a lot of young people to get into this business, knowing that their salary can be used for a mortgage…a loan or even just rent,” Lemieux said. “Especially now that housing has increased so much, the minimum wage cannot meet the rent requirements.”
It is also good public relations, he added.
“I think employers should be proud to show that their employees are well taken care of,” Lemieux said. “It’s a win-win situation, but it’s difficult for employers to actually build that living wage into their business plan.”
The other nine Ottawa businesses certified as living wage employers, according to the Ontario Living Wage Network, include:
- BentoSMB Inc.
- Clean Detailing Inc.
- Fair Trade Canada
- Freiheit Care Inc.
- Cooperative La Siembra Inc.
- Matthew House Ottawa
- Humane Society of Ottawa
- Ottawa Outdoor Equipment Library
- Your credit union on Merivale Road and Chamberlain Avenue