City of Vancouver celebrates one year as a Living Wage employer

Gregor Robertson
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

IN 2017, Vancouver became the largest city in Canada to be certified as a Living Wage employer and a year on they have recommitted to this minimum level of pay for both staff and externally contracted vendors.
By gaining certification, which is provided by the Living Wage for Families campaign (LWFC), the City aims to reduce inequality and inspire other organizations to make the same commitment. It was announced last week that the Metro Vancouver living wage has increased this year to $20.91, including direct wages and the value of non-mandatory benefits, from $20.62 in 2017.
“Vancouver’s economy is booming but there are still far too many people who are working full-time and struggling to make ends meet,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Today marks one year since the City of Vancouver became Canada’s largest employer to commit to a living wage. By investing in our people, we are building a stronger community and economy, and I encourage other local employers to join the living wage movement and ensure that all Vancouver residents experience a basic level of economic security.”
City employees and many contracted staff were already compensated at the living wage rate. During 2017, the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board have signed or renegotiated 17 contracts that meet the program criteria with vendors to ensure their staff and subcontractors are paid the living wage.
One contract to benefit from the City’s living wage commitment is the provision of graffiti removal services by Goodbye Graffiti. Speaking about what it means to receive a living wage, James, one of their certified technicians, said: “The Living Wage has benefited my life exponentially since it was introduced at Goodbye Graffiti Vancouver. As a young father of twins, this benefit couldn’t have come at a better time for me and my family as I have been able to afford all the costs of living, raising children and even build some savings for our future.”
Danielle Beck, General Manager of Goodbye Graffiti Vancouver, added: “The Living Wage has had such an incredible impact on our organization, over the past year alone we have seen drastic decreases in absenteeism, turnover and recruitment costs at the same time, tangible increases in morale, productivity and the overall strength of our team.”
The living wage initiative first began in July 2015 when Council approved a motion for the City to become a certified Living Wage employer and asked staff to report back on the necessary steps to achieve the goal. The policy was then mandated in September 2016 and staff were tasked with implementing it as a quickly as possible.
The introduction of the living wage was part of Phase 2 of the City’s Healthy City Strategy which includes 19 high-priority actions for 2015-2018, outlining an approach to respond to the guiding principles, long term goals and indicators for achieving and measuring progress which included becoming a Living Wage employer.