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Some businesses follow in City of Vancouver's footsteps, nixing living wage policy

After the City of Vancouver's decision to end its living wage policy, some businesses are following suit, according to an advocacy group.

Anastasia French, the provincial manager for Living Wage for Families BC said since the city’s decision – which occurred at an in-camera meeting on Jan. 31 – a few organizations have contacted the group saying they are going to end their living wage policies, as well. 

“We’ve had a few difficult conversations with businesses. They want to do the right thing, but also their budgets are tight,” she said. “We are nervous about the chilling effect that this decision will have.”

While businesses struggle with inflation and COVID-related challenges, a number of local employers have recommitted to the living wage policy, including Pulpfiction Books.

Owner Chris Brayshaw told CTV News cutting wages isn’t something he’s willing to do.

“It’s hard for people who are really concerned about buying food or paying the rent to be able to demonstrate empathy and compassion and common sense – (I) guess the kids call it emotional labour – that you’re required to provide when you’re in a public service environment,” he said. “I don’t want stressed and unhappy people working for me.”

In a statement to CTV News, the City of Vancouver said the move was necessary for logistical reasons, not cost-saving ones, adding the "vast majority" of its employees are at or above the living wage already, and noting that in the past when the annual rate dropped, it did not decrease workers' pay. The city said it will now implement a fair wage approach based on a rolling five-year average of the living wage rate.

Living Wage for Families BC calculates the hourly amount someone working full time needs to earn in order to pay for essentials including food, rental housing, transportation and child care. It's based on a household with two employed adults and two children and does not include expenses related to debt repayment or factor in saving for retirement or post-secondary education.

French said since November, when the living wage increased to $24.08 per hour in Metro Vancouver – a 17 per cent increase from last year – 200 employers committed to the campaign. 

Pyrrha Jewelry Design is one of them.

Danielle Papin, the company's co-owner and co-designer, said while the last few years have been difficult, Pyrrha joined the campaign because it aligned with their beliefs.

“We really do use our values to guide our decisions and when we think about what kind of business we want to be, what kind of community citizens we want to be, we decide to keep doing those things,” she said. “We think it’s valuable.”

Business owners like Brayshaw said Vancouver's decision will be most felt by those trying to get by in one of the country's least affordable cities.

“I’m disappointed that now that times are a little tough, that it’s going to fall on the backs of working people and not on politicians,” he said. Top Stories

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