New report from Ontario Living Wage Network shows nearly 22% increase in hourly wages needed to make ends meet amid rising costs
A handful of businesses in Sault Ste. Marie will have to dig much deeper into their pockets if they want to maintain their status as a certified living wage employer.
According to a report published Monday by the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN), the living wage for the Sault has increased to $19.70 per hour in 2022 – a 21.6% increase over the living wage for the last year by $16.20 an hour, the biggest jump in the entire province .
The minimum wage in Ontario is $15.50 per hour.
“I was shocked by this,” said Kurtis McDermid, whose company, Odd Job Jack’s, was certified as a living wage employer by OLWN earlier this year. “It was definitely a lot bigger than we thought it was.”
McDermid employs about 20 people, on average, for entry-level jobs in lawn care, snow removal, landscaping and cleaning services.
“We’re going to have to really consider whether we’re able to maintain our living wage designation at this time because we’re hiring mostly entry level positions,” he said. “That would mean pretty much the majority of our staff, all of our workers would have to see a raise, and all of our managers, we would have to scale them with that to keep things fair and appropriate for everyone.
“I mean, we have increased the living wage by 21.6%, so we are going to see an increase in the wage bill of around 15 to 20%. We should see an increase in payroll to maintain our certification, and I don’t know if the money is in the bank for that.
OLWN communications coordinator Craig Pickthorne says the “unprecedented” increase in food and shelter is a big factor in rising living wage rates in Ontario, which are calculated by taking the cost of essentials such as housing, food, transportation and childcare and taking into account applicable taxes, transfers or government benefits in order to arrive at an hourly wage that a person must work full time to join the two ends.
“A small part of that is that we’ve had to consolidate some areas, but really most of that increase is in housing and food, and the affordability of those items,” Pickthorne said.
The OLWN, which is made up of employers, employees, non-profit organizations and researchers, told Living Wage Certified Employers in Northern Ontario ahead of this year’s report that the rates living wage would increase.
“While we find, for the most part, employers know what’s coming, especially this year when all we see in the news is inflation and the rising cost of living,” Pickthorne said. .
But the OLWN says there are actions that can be taken collectively in order to impact affordability, such as $10-a-day national childcare. program which saw 92% of licensed child care operators in Ontario sign up to participate.
“It kind of makes you wonder, what else can we do, especially when it comes to housing costs, rent control and affordability of rent? What can we do as a society, through government, to make things more affordable? said Pickthorne.
There is a six-month buffer period for certified Living Wage employers to adjust wages to maintain their OLWN certification, although in some cases a wage rate may be negotiated or Living Wage implementation can be extended.
McDermid is proud to have been able to offer a Certified Living Wage to employees of Odd Job Jack’s and its cleaning division, The Clean Team.
This reflects his marketing and made it a point to defend his certification when running for councilor in this year’s municipal elections.
As the cost of food, housing and other essential goods and services continues to rise, he wonders if he can afford to maintain his OLWN certification as a living wage employer.
“A 21% jump just isn’t achievable without major choices being made,” McDermid said.
There are currently five employers in Sault Ste. Marie—Village Media, Odd Job Jack’s, Laker Express, YNCU Sault Ste. Marie on Trunk Road and Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie – who have been certified by OLWN as Living Wage Employers.