A friend in Ontario came up with a fascinating campaign, one that would be interesting to see roll out across the country.
He suggested every working Canadian being paid less than a living wage should call in sick one day and see what happens to the country’s business and service sectors — and to its economy.
Here’s what he wrote:
“What say we pick a day early next year and call it the national sick day? Where everyone making under $15 calls in sick. Since we are seen as unnecessary unskilled labour, unworthy of a living wage, who would even notice? After all, according to the skilled labour and professionals, we aren’t really doing anything important.”
Now, it’s fair to say this friend — his dad was one of my bosses in a previous journalistic life — is a bit of a rabble-rouser and his suggestion came on Labour Day.
He’s a person with strong opinions he not only shares, but lives up to, having thrown his name into the election ring a couple of times in the past, running for the Greens in my Ontario hometown.
He raises an interesting point, however. Fifteen dollars is often put forward as a basic living wage; it’s one anti-poverty groups throughout the country have called to be implemented.
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has said he’ll raise the minimum wage to that level if he is elected next year (that wage rate is scheduled to go to $10.85 an hour from the current $10.45 later this month, but that still leaves it as the lowest in the country).
The head of the B.C. Federation of Labour and the think-tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have also called for a $15 rate. Even Bernie Sanders pushed for it during his U.S. presidential nomination campaign.
That’s to be expected, however, as each proponent tends to walk at least a bit on the left side of the political spectrum.
It’s important to note a living wage is not the same as a minimum wage. It’s what many experts say a worker should be making in order to live a life that doesn’t mean ongoing worries about making ends meet, feeding a family, providing good safe housing and seeing their children have the basics of life.
Living Wage Canada, one of the main proponents, says it’s good for everyone. For employees, it raises them out of poverty, gives them a better quality of life, improved health and more changes for further education.
For employers, it can lead to less absenteeism, less turnover of staff, lower training costs, a better workplace morale and recognition as a responsible employer.
And, for the economy, it means consumers with more money to spend and who can more fully engage with their community.
The idea my friend put forward is truly intriguing. Think of how many people you encounter in a day who would not be there on that one day.
There wouldn’t be many behind the counter at those places you buy a coffee, a sandwich or donut. Don’t expect anyone to be on the line at any call centre you contact for help.
Any service-industry job, particularly those filled by women, would be gone that day as most of those who make minimum wage in the province are single mothers.
Forget about eating out that day; dishwashers for the most part would be absent.
Each performs a job we simply expect to be done every day. We don’t always think about that financial reality in which they live.
So, while my friend’s idea is never going to gain momentum, he presents an idea worth pondering as you go through the next few days, interacting with workers throughout Kamloops.
How many of them are living in poverty — and what do we need to do to end it?