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Regina rejects living wage

The City of Regina's executive committee has voted against paying a mandatory base wage of $16.95 per hour to all civic employees and anyone contracted for work by the city.

Wednesday's vote came after a report from city administrators that recommended against bringing in a so-called living wage for hourly employees.

The report says it would cost the city about $1.1 million to make the change, which would have to be covered by a property tax increase of 0.5 per cent.

The living wage for Regina — as determined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2016 — is for a family of two working parents with two children.

Currently, all of Regina's permanent employees make more than the living wage, but 379 casual employees who work 300 hours per year or less earn below that level, although they make more than the provincial minimum wage of $11.06.

Mayor Michael Fougere says the city is a good employer and is not paying its workers the bare minimum.

"Every salary is above minimum wage here ... our employees are well-paid," he said.

Coun. Andrew Stevens, the only executive committee member who spoke in favour of the proposed change, said he didn’t see enough in the report about the positive social and community benefits of a living wage.

He pointed to six other municipalities across Canada that have adopted such a policy, with New Westminster, British Columbia being the first in 2011.

"This notion that we shouldn’t be, or we can’t, or maybe this is beyond our jurisdiction ... that’s patently false," said Stevens.

Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry argued that the proposal would help reduce the wage gap between women and men, boost spending in the local economy and create a ripple effect, inspiring other employers to follow suit.

Marilyn Braun-Pollon with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said a survey of members on the idea showed 74 per cent of small business owners oppose it.

She said the majority already pay well above minimum wage, noting that there’s a misconception that a living wage will create jobs.

"The best social policy is a job," said Braun-Pollon, arguing that there's a need for entry-level positions, mostly held by 15 to 24-year-olds.

The living wage proposal will face a final vote at city council’s next meeting later this month.



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