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Good Jobs are the Key to Poverty Reduction

This week, City Council’s Government Management and Community Development and Recreation Committees looked at how to implement the Interim Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy. Tim Maguire highlighted the importance of quality  jobs for providing a path out of poverty. He told the committees that the City needs to become a living wage employer, develop and implement a job quality assessment tool, and reform some of its own employment practices.


 

Dear Councillor Ainslie and Members of the Government Management Committee:

RE:           GM6.21: TO Prosperity – Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy

I am happy to once again communicate Local 79’s strong support for the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, particularly as it enters the most important phase: determining how to implement the Report’s recommendations.

Community groups, researchers and the labour movement all agree that good jobs provide the best path out of poverty. Unfortunately, good jobs are increasingly difficult to find. More and more employers are offering low-wage, precarious employment. In the GTA alone, 43% of workers are precariously employed. As the cost of housing, food and transportation increases, low-wage workers are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, let alone participate in their communities. There are two recommendations that centre on good jobs that I will focus on today.

The first is Recommendation #14, which calls on the City to become a living wage employer and advocate to other employers to encourage them to follow suit. The second is Recommendation #15, which calls for a job quality assessment tool. Living wages and a job quality assessment tool are important milestones in poverty reduction, and I urge the Committee to request that staff consult and report back on how to implement these recommendations.

Becoming a living wage employer is about demonstrating social leadership. Good jobs are about more than economic growth; they are about social growth. Earning a living wage means being able to meet basic financial demands without severe financial stress. It isn’t about vacations or new cars or the luxuries that many people in Toronto take for granted. It is about providing the basics, which is increasingly difficult for more and more Torontonians.

There are also economic benefits to promoting living wages. Employers enjoy reduced staff turnover and improved customer service when they pay living wages.[1] Further, evidence from the United States, where over 140 cities and towns have already become living wage employers, shows that jurisdictions that raised wages experienced higher growth than those that did not.[2]

However, a living wage is just one component of a quality job. A quality job also provides – among other things – health and safety protections, stable hours and predictable scheduling. That’s why the City needs to develop and implement a job quality assessment tool.

I have to point out that the City has already failed to be a leader on that last point. For more than six months, Local 79 has raised concerns about scheduling for Part-Time staff in City-run shelters. The ongoing casualization of what used to be Full-Time positions means many employees rely on second jobs to get by. Although Shelters staff are not guaranteed any particular number of hours, Shelters management has demanded that staff be available 24 hours a day. Not only does this make finding supplementary work nearly impossible, it disrupts families and makes arranging child care extremely difficult. This is a shameful practice. Let me emphasize: shelters and similar services are core services – not to mention key anti-poverty measures – and should be delivered by a complement of Full-time staff.

I also want to indicate Local 79’s strong support for the City using what it is already doing – buying goods and services in a range of areas – to combat poverty. This means fully implementing social procurement policies, but it also means requiring that agencies and contractors pay their staff a living wage. The City should not promote bad jobs by allowing contractors to subject workers to low-wage, precarious employment.

In fact, by demanding living wages from contractors, the City would go beyond advocacy and would put concrete pressure on all employers to raise wages. Although I am here on behalf of my members, the benefits of becoming a living wage employer and committing to a job quality assessment tool would, on balance, benefit workers in the broader public and private sector.

Combatting poverty and income inequality needs to be a multi-pronged effort, but quality jobs need to be at the centre of the City’s approach. Local 79 is happy to engage the City on the steps needed to become a living wage employer and continues to be available to work with the City on developing and implementing a job quality assessment tool.

Sincerely,

 

Tim Maguire
President

 

[1]                 Reich, M. et al. (2003). Living Wages and Economic Performance: The San Francisco Airport Model. Institute of Industrial Relations University of California, Berkeley

                  Tait, C. (2014). Work That Pays: Final Report of the Living Wage Commission. Living Wage Commission, United Kingdom.

[2]                 Neuman, S. (2014). “States That Raised Minimum Wage See Faster Job Growth, Report Says”. News Blog, National Public Radio, U.S.A. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/19/332879409/states-that-raised-minimum-wage-see-faster-job-growth-report-says.

 


Dear Councillor Pasternak and Members of the Community Development and Recreation Committee:

RE:           GM6.21: TO Prosperity – Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy

I am happy to once again communicate Local 79’s strong support for the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, particularly as it enters the most important phase: determining how to implement the Report’s recommendations.

Community groups, researchers and the labour movement all agree that good jobs provide the best path out of poverty. Unfortunately, good jobs are increasingly difficult to find. More and more employers are offering low-wage, precarious employment. In the GTA alone, 43% of workers are precariously employed. As the cost of housing, food and transportation increases, low-wage workers are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, let alone participate in their communities. There are two recommendations that centre on good jobs that I will focus on today.

The first is Recommendation #14, which calls on the City to become a living wage employer and advocate to other employers to encourage them to follow suit. The second is Recommendation #15, which calls for a job quality assessment tool. Living wages and a job quality assessment tool are important milestones in poverty reduction, and I urge the Committee to request that staff consult and report back on how to implement these recommendations.

There are economic benefits to promoting living wages. Employers enjoy reduced staff turnover and improved customer service when they pay living wages.[1] Further, evidence from the United States, where over 140 cities and towns have already become living wage employers, shows that jurisdictions that raised wages experienced higher growth than those that did not.[2]

However, a living wage is not just about economic growth; it’s also about social growth and development. This Committee made an important commitment to social development when it introduced the Social Development Dashboard and supporting efforts to becoming a living wage employer extends that leadership. Living wages underpin social development because they let people meet basic financial demands without severe financial stress. It isn’t about vacations or new cars or the luxuries that many people in T
oronto take for granted. It is about providing the basics. It’s about ensuring everyone can participate fully in their community.

Of course, a living wage is just one component of a quality job. A quality job also provides – among other things – health and safety protections, stable hours and predictable scheduling. That’s why the City needs to develop and implement a job quality assessment tool.

I have to point out that the City has already failed to be a leader on that last point. For more than six months, Local 79 has raised concerns about scheduling for Part-Time staff in City-run shelters. The ongoing casualization of what used to be Full-Time positions means many employees rely on second jobs to get by. Although Shelters staff are not guaranteed any particular number of hours, Shelters management has demanded that staff be available 24 hours a day. Not only does this make finding supplementary work nearly impossible, it disrupts families and makes arranging child care extremely difficult. This is a shameful practice. Let me emphasize: shelters and similar services are core services – not to mention key anti-poverty measures – and should be delivered by a complement of Full-time staff.

I also want to indicate Local 79’s strong support for the City using what it is already doing – buying goods and services in a range of areas – to combat poverty. This means fully implementing social procurement policies, but it also means requiring agencies and contractors pay their staff a living wage. The City should not promote bad jobs by allowing contractors to subject workers to low-wage, precarious employment.

In fact, by demanding living wages from contractors, the City would go beyond advocacy and would put concrete pressure on all employers to raise wages. Although I am here on behalf of my members, the benefits of becoming a living wage employer and committing to a job quality assessment tool would, on balance, benefit workers in the broader public and private sector.

Combatting poverty and income inequality needs to be a multi-pronged effort, but quality jobs need to be at the centre of the City’s approach. Local 79 is happy to engage the City on the steps needed to become a living wage employer and continues to be available to work with the City on developing and implementing a job quality assessment tool.

Sincerely,

Tim Maguire
President

[1]                 Reich, M. et al. (2003). Living Wages and Economic Performance: The San Francisco Airport Model. Institute of Industrial Relations University of California, Berkeley

                  Tait, C. (2014). Work That Pays: Final Report of the Living Wage Commission. Living Wage Commission, United Kingdom.

[2]                 Neuman, S. (2014). “States That Raised Minimum Wage See Faster Job Growth, Report Says”. News Blog, National Public Radio, U.S.A. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/19/332879409/states-that-raised-minimum-wage-see-faster-job-growth-report-says.