November 28, 2022

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Rising cost of living is driving up the local “living wage” in Brantford-Brant and Haldimand-Norfolk.

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A recent report from the Ontario Living Wage Network shows that Brant Niagara Haldimand Norfolk residents need to earn at least $19.80 an hour to make ends meet.

That’s a 14.1 percent increase from 2021, when the local living wage was set at $17.35.

The report said the biggest increase was in Sault Ste. Marie, where the living wage increased by 21.6% over last year. Toronto’s living wage is the highest of all regions, with most living wages between $19 and $20.

The minimum wage in Ontario is $15.50 an hour.

The Ontario Living Wage Network’s living wage calculator uses basic living costs such as housing, food, clothing and transportation, as well as factors including government benefits, to determine how much an hourly worker needs to earn to live in their region. .

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Heather Vanner, executive director of Community Resource Service, which operates the Brantford Food Bank, said people living in low-income households are in a precarious position.

“Any change in their spending can be challenging,” Vanner said. “Higher food prices are putting economic pressure on an already difficult situation.”

Although Vanner said food bank users are asked if they work, they are not asked about their income.

“What we’ve found in recent months is that the number of households reporting that they work (either part-time or full-time) has increased by three percent.

“A living wage would make a difference to a number of families and individuals that we see who are in low income situations and create a more food secure environment for their households.”

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Food is one of the biggest costs in the living wage calculator, the report says, and has risen significantly this year with inflation.

According to the report, annual food costs in Brant Niagara Haldimand Norfolk for a family of four are $10,205 and $3,524 for a single adult.

Local shelter costs, according to the report, are $18,500 for a family of four and $14,635 for a single adult.

Craig Pickthorne, communications coordinator for the Ontario Living Wage Network, said this year, for the first time, the organization’s living wage calculations cover the entire province of Ontario, providing living wages for 10 economic regions defined by Statistics Canada.

There are currently more than 500 employers certified with the Living Wage Network, including four in Brantford-Brant and Haldimand-Norfolk, which means they agree to pay their employees the regional living wage calculated by the organization. More than half of these companies have signed up since the start of the pandemic.

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Pickthorne said areas with large numbers of certified employers, such as Niagara Falls, Kitchener and Hamilton, have active local organizers doing outreach and have had an up-to-date Living Wage calculation for many years.

“We just added Brantford to our coverage map and hope to start certifying new employers soon.”

He said certified employers report lower staff turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs and better productivity and morale.

“They report that their employees experience less burnout because they don’t have to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” Pickthorne said.

Employers who want to remain certified have six months to begin paying workers the increased living wage.

-With files from the Canadian Press

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