Some of the lowest-paid City of Winnipeg employees could be in for a pay increase.
City council’s executive policy committee voted 6-1 Tuesday to direct the administration to determine the cost of setting a minimum-wage rate of $15 per hour for civic employees.
Coun. Brian Mayes, who proposed the motion, wants the report to be completed within 60 days, allowing it to be included in the 2020-23 budget deliberations.
The only vote against the proposal came from Coun. Scott Gillingham, council’s finance chairman.
"I can tell you the results before we go any further — it’s going to cost taxpayers more. It’s going to cost the city more," Gillingham said.
Mayes’ motion was prompted by an administrative report, which found 87 per cent of civic staff were paid at $15 an hour or more.
The report, prepared at council’s direction 18 months ago, asked the administration to review the policies of other municipalities in relation to the living-wage rate, which is considered across North America as $15 an hour.
The report also looked at the City of Winnipeg work force, and found those employees earning less than $15 an hour were mostly students, and some part-time and seasonal workers.
While the report found some municipalities require contractors to comply with their fair wage policies, Mayes said at this time he only wants to consider the costs if applied to civic staff.
The report made no recommendations on adopting the policy, but pointed out it would lead to unspecified cost increases.
Before Mayes made his proposal, a representative of the union that represents most civic employees urged EPC to study the issue further.
"The cost of doing nothing means that some city staff and private contractors working for the city will continue to live with poverty-level wages," said Jennifer Bamford, a national staff representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. "We believe nobody should work at poverty-level wages and for these workers, every day matters."
Mayor Brian Bowman voted in favour of the motion, explaining he wants to know the cost before considering whether city hall should adopt the measure.
Coun. Sherri Rollins said she wants the follow-up report to clarify current wage rates for students and part-time and seasonal workers.
Mayes and Rollins were among five EPC members who had endorsed a living-wage policy at city hall during the 2018 civic election.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Updated on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 6:43 PM CDT: tweaks headlines