In Support of A Living Wage

 

Yukoners who rely on minimum wage earn $11.51 per hour. And that’s before any tax comes off the top. Yukon workers deserve better than minimum wage – they need a living wage. Most minimum wage discussions tend to go down the path of cost, instead of decency. Let’s take a quick look at the cost side so we can better understand the argument for decency.

Let’s envision a worker putting in 60 hours a week at two different minimum wage employers (with no overtime). At the current minimum wage, and after taxes, their take home is just under $33,000 a year. Let that sink in for a moment.

Given the recent rent survey completed by Yukon Bureau of Statistics, let’s assume our worker is single and pays the average rent for all types of rental units, $1,184.00 per month. Over a year, that total comes to $14,208.00. Nearly half of our worker’s income is gone in rent.

I could go on, but I imagine folks can predict where this math leads. Come year-end, a worker with one full-time and one half-time job has been able to little more than meet their survival costs.

The decent alternative to the minimum wage is a LIVING WAGE.

In Yukon, a living wage is calculated as $18.26 per hour – a substantial jump from the $11.51/hr minimum wage. This figure takes into account the true cost of living in the north, factoring in the high rents, higher cost of living and realities of the northern economy.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1975 to prevent the exploitation of women and youth in the workplace. Over time and in practice, minimum wage has served to do the opposite. Most minimum wage positions are now occupied by adults, especially people of colour and new Canadians. Minimum wage earners often support families, working two or more jobs to do so.

The living wage is designed to lift individuals and families out of poverty and into a place of greater economic security.

Times have changed since 1975. Business interests have formed powerful lobby groups which are often given the same or greater rights as people. What has been lost along the way is the understanding that businesses exist to meet the needs of the people. If people can’t afford the costs of goods or services, then businesses will starve and die.

Making decisions on how much people should earn based on the cost to business, is indecent.

Providing workers with a decent income will result in greater financial freedom, and increased spending on goods and services. People who aren’t on the knife’s edge of poverty have a much better quality of life, lowering costs for our health care system.

The benefits to our communities would be many, and the businesses paying higher wages would benefit from a stronger economy – the positive effects of increased wages have consistently proven to outweigh the costs. It’s time for Yukon government to make the decent choice, and support low-wage earning Yukoners.

Justin Lemphers, President
Yukon Federation of Labour

Read the letter to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver sent by Northern Labour leaders.

Download a copy of the postcard petition in support of the #LIvingWageNorth campaign

Visit #LivingWageNorth web page

You and I Will Keep Each Other Safe

DOM 2014 April 28 is the Day of Mourning; a day we remember & honour workers killed and injured on the job.

According to the Yukon Worker’s Compensation Health and Safety Board, 5 workers were killed on the job in 2014. Since 1984, 58 Yukoners have lost their lives at work.   These workers were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, and loved ones who died because they were trying to earn a living. Work shouldn’t hurt.

It’s not just workers being killed in jobsite accidents. People develop diseases after years of exposure to harsh chemicals and dangerous substances. Asbestos exposure is one of the main causes of diseases developed by workers. According to Workers’ Compensation Boards from around Canada, asbestos was responsible for 41% of all workplace fatalities in 2013.

You have the right to refuse unsafe work. You have the right to know what substances you are working with and the right to take an active role in keeping your workplace safe. Use your rights to help make workplaces safer and reduce exposure and risk for everyone. The PSAC Health & Safety Committee meets monthly and welcomes all members of YEU & PSAC. Contact the PSAC at 667-2331 to learn more.

On April 28 we come together to remember our brothers and sisters who did not make it home from work. We renew our commitment to safe and healthy workplaces. When you go to work in the morning, you should come home safe and healthy at the end of the day. We need to remember to be watchful and vigilant all year, & not just April 28th when we renew our commitment to all workers.

Please join the annual Day of Mourning Ceremony, Tuesday April 28 2015 at 12:30 pm in the Yukon Government Main Administration Building Lobby. Together we will keep each other safe.

Black candles DOM 2014Day-of-Mourning-circle.ai_

Each black candle represents a Yukon worker who died on the job in 2014.