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Op-ed: Fair wages clause in Halifax tenders nothing but fluff

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – HRM applies so-called fair wage considerations during the selection of a service provider, but the recent awarding of a parking enforcement contract to G4S shows it to be meaningless window dressing.

G4S is a multinational corporation with a reputation for paying low wages. Earlier this year the company made the news for violating the Employment Standards Act in Ontario.

The runner-up in the evaluation was Commissionaires Nova Scotia, a not-for-profit organization that employs mostly former members of the military and RCMP.

Wages paid by the Commissionaires are considered relatively generous in an industry that is known for paying its workers as little as it can get away with.


The Request for Proposal contained three parts:  the technical proposal, worth 70 points; the aforementioned fair wage considerations, worth 5 points; and cost, worth 25 points.

G4S and the Commissionaires essentially tied on the technical portion of the evaluation. But G4S beat the crap out of the Commissionaires on cost.

Whereas the cost of using the Commissionaires was estimated to be well over a million dollars, G4S can deliver the same services for just over $840,000.  That translates into the full 25 points for G4S, and only 18.8 points for the Commissionaires.

It’s those 6 points difference that cost the Commissionaires the contract.

It’s important to note that we’re not talking about apples and oranges when it comes to cost.  Cost is not based on the different understandings of the hours of work by each bidder, but on the actual hours of expected work, applied consistently to all proposals by the city.

So what about the fair wage considerations?

That’s just it. In terms of fair wage considerations the two competitors are just fractions apart, even though G4S will clearly be paying its workers a whole lot less. The Commissionaires get the full 5 points, G4S gets 4.2 points.

It’s hard to see how fair wage considerations can ever make a real difference in the awarding of a contract under the current circumstances.

Hypothetically, even if one company were to pay minimum wage, and the other would offer $15 per hour, the penalty would still only be a negligible 1.4 points out of a total of 100.

Something is wrong here. The penalty for not offering a fair wage is not really a penalty at all.


Just last month G4S beat the Commissionaires Nova Scotia in the bid for a security contract for the Halifax Airport. We covered that story here.