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After 30 months we’re still waiting for that Halifax city living wage report

Hard working cleaners at the Sackville Sports Stadium earn no where near living wage. Photo Robert Devet, I think

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – When a bunch of millionaires came knocking with a proposal to build a football stadium, to a large extent with provincial and municipal tax money, Halifax city staff jumped into action. 

A proposal was received in August 2019, and staff came back to Council with a report and recommendations in December. From very first inkling to tabling a full report on a very complex matter took staff three months.  

Things don’t always move that fast.

On June 20, 2017, Councillor Lindell Smith moved, and Waye Mason seconded, that staff investigate and recommend a policy framework for the consideration of social economic benefit, employee compensation/living wage and environmental impacts in the procurement process and report back to Council.  

In less formal language, Councillor Smith wanted to know if, how and when the city could demand that city contractors pay their workers a half decent wage, and consider working conditions and other social and environmental benefits when awarding contracts.

Earning a living wage means earning enough money to live in a safe and decent home, eat healthy food, buy clothes when you need them, and pay for childcare and transportation.

Most importantly, it means not constantly stressing out about how to pay for all of that. In 2018 he Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculated a Halifax living wage to be $19 per hour.

A living wage matters an awful lot to workers making near minimum wages while their employers have profitable contracts with the city. I know these workers would consider it an urgent matter because you simply can’t live on a low wage in this city.

See also: A living wage for Halifax and Antigonish

Well, it’s been 30 months and we’re still waiting for that report.

An interim report was tabled on April 16, 2019, almost two years after the original motion. There isn’t a whole lot in the report. Take a look and prove me wrong. 

“It’s anticipated that a report on social policy will be coming to Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee in the coming months. Once the social policy has been approved at Regional Council, staff will be able to provide further direction and information regarding the application of a social lens for future procurements as requested by Regional Council, such as a living wage,” writes Maggie-Jane Spray, a senior communications advisor at the city. 

As the Halifax Examiner’s Tim Bousquet established, during the 2016 elections quite a few candidates were supportive of the idea of a living wage for contracted workers, and quite a few of them ended up getting elected.

Bousquet asked a simple question, are you in favour of a living wage ordinance? By and large he got straight responses.

Somehow all that clarity and energy morphed into a policy framework, 30 months (and counting) in the making.

See also: Halifax Council continues to ignore fair wages for outsourced services

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