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LOCAL, B.C., and CANADA

WAGE INEQULITY

COMMENT FORM

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Wage hike needed
Vernon Morning Star - Letters - Published: February 03, 2009

I don’t understand how the government believes that people can live let alone survive off of the minimum wage these days. With the cost of gas, food and living expenses going up on a regular basis, there are more and more people getting put out on to the streets.

Cities always complain about the problems the homeless cause, but what they don’t realize is that lots of it could be prevented by the increase in wages.

The government expects students to work and be able to pay for school, shelter and food.

Most students have a hard enough time juggling work and school; they don’t have time to worry about other expenses.

People working at minimum wage make approximately $16,640 a year before taxes, which hardly covers the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment.

I strongly advise that the government put some thought into increasing minimum wage, it is very much needed.

Kristina Robitaille

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Making ends meet getting more difficult
By Jenn Marshall - Nanaimo News Bulletin - May 15, 2008

Renee Tisdall used to make a decent living as a grocery clerk.

After she quit to raise her children, she found going back to work a little over five years ago was a different story.

“I’m at $12.15 an hour now and you can’t really make any more than that,” said Tisdall, adding she was making $17.35 an hour as a grocery clerk at Safeway in 1989.

Save-On-Foods, where she now works, created a two-tier pay grid in 1997, under which employees already working there make almost double that of workers in the new pay scale.

“The gap is just huge,” Tisdall said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m divorced and I get spousal support. I know a woman who works in our store who has to line up at the Salvation Army at Christmas time to get a turkey.”

Tisdall said many employees work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

“They’re tired, they get sick, they can’t miss work so they come in sick,” she said. “The really well-paying jobs are disappearing, but somebody has to do these jobs and they deserve a living wage.”

Despite the financial support Tisdall has been able to secure, her spending has changed. She can’t afford holidays, she drives less and shops in bulk.

The latest census 2006 information released by Statistics Canada on income and earnings shows the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is disappearing.

The figures show a 7.5-per cent drop in the median earnings of Nanaimo workers between 2000 and 2005.

British Columbians experienced a median income drop of 3.4 per cent during that time, while the median earnings of Canadians as a whole grew 2.4 per cent.

“I think this reflects a shift from manufacturing and resource sector jobs to service sector jobs,” said Gord Holyer, a Malaspina University-College economics instructor.

“I think it’s saying we’re in for rough times.”

Earnings are the wages and salaries individuals receive through work. Income is everything an individual brings in, including income assistance and tax transfers. The median income is the salary in the middle – exactly half of residents make more and half make less.

Holyer said one reason the median income might be down in Nanaimo is because more people are working at low-wage, entry level jobs rather than on social assistance.

“Those additional employees bring the median income down, but it could mean those people are actually better off,” he said.

Government tax breaks have similarly increased the spending power of the rich.

“Those at the top and those at the bottom have improved whereas those in the middle have slipped backwards,” said Holyer.

He said the cost of living has become less affordable for middle income earners, who are used to luxuries they associate with the Island lifestyle such as owning their own cars and houses.

“We have gone from a saving nation to a spending nation,” said Holyer. “We used to save for a rainy day and now it’s like every day is rainy.

“People talk about it as the disappearance of the middle class.”

Joey Moore, a Malaspina University-College sociology instructor, said Nanaimo is an exaggerated example of the polarization happening in the B.C. workforce.

Forestry and resource jobs are being replaced with lower-paying jobs in the retail and service industry.

With the recent fall of Madill Equipment Canada and the Harmac pulp mill, taking with them some 700 well-paid jobs, Nanaimo wages could continue to drop in terms of spending power.

“Unlike 15 years ago 20 years ago, we’ve got a larger number of people on part-time, low-wage jobs,” he said. “These trends are pushed by employers looking to reduce costs.”

Moore said the recent job cuts at Malaspina also illustrate the erosion of well-paying, public sector jobs.

John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner, said historically, Nanaimo incomes have been lower than the provincial average, but the recent marked decline shows a dramatic shift in the city’s economy from resource-based to lower-paying jobs in tourism and retail.

“The more service jobs we create, the less we’re able to keep up with inflation,” he said.

reporter "at" nanaimobulletin.com

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