City employee living wage increases comes with $3M price tag

In order to pay what some advocates consider a living wage, a new report says the City of Winnipeg would have to spend more than $3 million more per year.

Right now, minimum wage in Manitoba is $15.30 per hour.

The report to the Mayor’s Executive Policy Committee looked at the impact of city workers being paid a minimum of $19.21.

This would affect 516 employees, at a cost of $1.75 million per year. The jobs include some 311 customer service staff, library workers, and recreation technicians.

CUPE President Gord Delbridge says a living wage is needed to help pull some of his union members out of poverty.

“We’ve got City of Winnipeg workers that have to access food banks, that are municipal government employees, that are using food banks on a regular basis. That’s disturbing,” said Delbridge.

But Mayor Scott Gillingham says the move would be expensive and any salary increases should be negotiated.

“For years I’ve had concerns about the cascading impact of implementing a living wage,” said Gillingham. “City wages should be set through collective bargaining not on the floor of council.”

The report also examined the cost of requiring a living wage for private contractors doing business with the city.

It’s estimated $4 million worth of third party, service-based contracts, for jobs like security guards and cleaning staff, would increase by $1.6 point million.

“I do think it’s worth pursuing,” said City Councillor Brian Mayes. “Especially for people who work for subcontractors, these are our lowest paid folks.”

But Brianna Solberg, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, worries the policy could lead to fewer companies bidding on city contracts and those who do may have to make difficult choices.

“For the small, small businesses they’ve seen all of their costs increase, so to mandate a higher living wage will mean that there could potentially be some job cuts.” said Solberg.

Gillingham said he plans to receive the report as information only.

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