Integris Credit Union President and CEO David Bird announcing last week that Integris is the first business to be certified as a Living Wage employer in this region.

Credit union certified for living wage

Integris Credit Union is the first employer in the region to be "Living Wage' certified.

We now know how much a family needs to earn per hour to cover basic expenses in Vanderhoof and surrounding communities.

Calculated for the first time in north central B.C. by Integris Credit Union, the area’s living wage—the hourly amount that covers basic living costs such as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation—in 2015 is $16.82/hour; $6.57 higher than the B.C. minimum wage of $10.25 an hour. Last week Integris announced that it is the first credit union outside the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley to be certified as a Living Wage employer, and the first employer to receive the certification in this region.

The Living Wage is “a scenario that tries to encompass as much as possible,” said Cori Ramsay, the project’s spearhead. The equation includes food data from B.C.’s dietitians, the region’s rent and transportation costs according to government data, as well as daycare costs and post-secondary education for families with children.

Originally calculated for Prince George, the amount can be applied to Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, and Quesnel, Ramsay noted, upon consultation with the Living Wage for Families Campaign staff. “A lot of smaller communities are having trouble doing these equations, just because there’s not enough data,” she said. “For example, the CMHC might not do housing assessments for Vanderhoof.”

Despite the lack of specific data for certain communities, the figure would not be far off, Ramsay said. “Like the costs of transportation, you don’t have public transportation, you might be paying a bit more, but the rent might be a bit less,” she said.

But do we make enough from our work to live here?

“In terms of job openings from last year, about a quarter of job vacancies are under that level,” said Robin Work, general manager of Work BC’s branch in Vanderhoof.

However, Work added, wages have been increasing with the cost of living in the area.

“Out of all job postings, only 5% are offering minimum wage,” said Work. “The vast majority of employers would have no trouble being certified.”

Though Integris is the first certified Living Wage Employer in the area, most businesses are likely already paying a living wage to their employees, taking into consideration work benefits packages, said Alex Castley, Integris’s manager of talent acquisition and development.

“A lot of people we’ve talked to said no way, but the calculation involved wage and benefits,” Castley said. “It’s more in reach than it might appear first hand. A few years ago, we had an individual at our AGM who asked us if we were a living wage employer,” he added. “At the time, we actually didn’t know what that was.”

Vivian Chui

 

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