Revelstoke has the third highest living wage in the province, according to a new report by the City of Revelstoke and the Revelstoke Credit Union.
The report was produced by Jill Zacharias, the city’s social development coordinator, and Michelle Lenzi, the controller at the credit union.
The report pegs the living wage at $18.87 per hour, or an annual after-tax income of about $63,000 for a family of four.
“This is an important piece of our income security goal and to try and start a movement in Revelstoke where we try and help people meet that cost of living,” said Zacharias.
The wage was calculated by looking at housing, food, clothing, transportation, child care, medical and other costs for a family of four. It uses a methodology set out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It assumes the family has two children age four and seven, with one in full-time childcare, and the other in after-school and summer care. The family has one car and both parents work 35 hours a week.
Expenses were compiled by Lenzi using local numbers. The cost of housing is based on a three bedroom home. It was calculated by contacting local property management companies and surveying ads in local media. Food costs used numbers from the 2013 Food Costing in BC Report, though the living wage report notes the Revelstoke Poverty Reduction Strategy found food costs are 14 per cent higher in Revelstoke than the rest of the province.
According to the report, housing makes up the biggest expense at $1,540 per month. Child care is the second biggest expense, followed by food.
Based on that, it was calculated that it would cost a family of four $62,978.57 per year to meet their basic expenses, with no savings for retirement or anything else.
“This is a modest calculation,” said Zacharias. “Housing is almost as high as Vancouver.”
Both parents would have to earn $18.87 per hour, based on a 35 hour work week, to meet expenses. Only Vancouver and Victoria – at $20.10 and $18.93 respectively – have higher living wages, according to the report. It should be noted that many of the comparative reports pre-date the Revelstoke report, so they don’t reflect inflation.
The living wage has gone up by more than a dollar since it was last calculated for the 2012 Poverty Reduction Strategy, when it was $17.75 per hour.
The calculation was approved the by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. A full copy of the living wage report can be read at the end of this article.
Credit Union, Community Futures taking the lead
The Revelstoke Credit Union and Community Futures are aiming to be certified as a living wage employer — a direct result of the living wage report.
“We really really believe in the project,” said CEO Roberta Bobicki. “It seems to go hand in hand with the credit union philosophy. For us it’s not all about the big profits, it’s what you do with the surplus money.”
For a business to qualify as a living wage employer, they must pay their staff their communities living wage. Benefits are included in the calculation. At the RCU, this will affect about a half-dozen entry level employees, said Bobicki.
The entry level wage at the credit union is $15.50 per hour. It would have to be raised to about $15.70–16.50 per hour depending on how benefits are determined.
“It turns out that our starting wage is fairly close to what a living wage already is,” said Bobicki.
A second component is that they are expected to hire contractors that pay a living wage. This would only impact the RCU’s janitorial service, said Bobicki, adding she wouldn’t force another business to raise wages.
“I’m aware not every employer can afford to incorporate the living wage program but I think it’s a good thing to be part of as far as the social responsibility thing goes,” she said.
Kevin Dorrius, the general manager of Revelstoke Community Futures, said becoming living wage certified won’t impact the organization directly since they have no entry level employees. It will impact what they pay for janitorial services.
He said they will be promoting it with clients. “The key is we’re going to work to get everyone in town buy into it,” he said. “We’re hoping to create some unity from the business community to take this on and commit to paying living wages.
“It’s not going to affect our decision making process but we’re hoping people will see the merit in the living wage process.”
Paying the living wage would mostly impact jobs in the service sector.
“There’s a whole lot of employers in Revelstoke that already pay the living wage but don’t get any credit for it,” noted Bobicki. “If you pay it then those people have money to spend in the community as well. I really like the concept and the principle of it.”