Living Wages on Average Hours

As ACORN Canada prepares to introduce its initiative to create the first municipal living wage bylaw (or ordinance) in Canada in mid-May, the behind the scenes debate with city councilors is intensely focusing the politics and economics on the “right” hourly rate as usual, but also on the important question of average hours. The rate will be somewhere between $10 and $15 CN depending on a lot of factors as well as the municipal economics of Ottawa, but ACORN Canada has raised in the backroom debates with its allies the critical question of whether the rate should be pegged to part-time, full-time, or average hours worked.

The organization, Canada Without Poverty (formerly Canadian Anti-Poverty Organization), had issued a number of statistics over the years and one that receives particular attention by ACORN Canada in its “white paper” supporting the Ottawa living wage campaign is the fact that CWP has calculated that the average Canadian only works 30.8 hours a week. Looking at the public policy impact, ACORN Canada has raised the issue, behind the scenes thus far in trial balloons on the campaign, that they believe there is an important and breakthrough case to be made for setting the minimum living wage for municipal contractors at the wage necessary for Ottawa citizen/workers to live and work in Ottawa even if they only make the average hours.

The difference in the living wage figure depending on the calculation of hours could move the number from the low end of what is needed at $10 something to the higher end of the range, closer to $15.00 hour. This will be an interesting debate no matter what decision ACORN Canada makes because the impact and policy implications are significant even if politics ends up winning the day on the number again.

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