The Ontario Living Wage Network supports decent work standards by championing and showcasing living wage initiatives. A living wage reflects the salaries people need to cover basic living expenses like food, clothing, shelter, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, a modest vacation, and recreation in their community.
Even with Ontario set to increase its minimum wage from $15.00 to $15.50 in October, this amount still falls short of hourly living wage rates. Living wage-certified business owners Aura Hertzog and Shane Harker explained why they joined the living wage movement.
Hertzog runs AURA-LA Pasteries + Provisions, a small community-focused bakery in the residential area of Kitchener. Her team carefully crafts and sells homemade baked goods, ice cream, chocolate, and locally sourced provisions. She views her business as an opportunity to gather and support community members while providing a safe and healthy workspace.
Herzog shares, “Community doesn’t just mean the customers we’re serving, but also the community that works with the business.” She actively supports her staff with living-wage compensation to retain satisfied workers. Joining the living wage directory was one step toward sharing this commitment to fair workplace practices with interested customers.
Harker is the founder of Rethink Resource, an environmentally-friendly waste management company that provides innovative solutions to difficult problems. Harker started this company to make a positive environmental impact and understands that his staff make up this environment.
Harker pays his workers more than living wage salaries to help attract and retain employees. He understands that handling waste is not always easy, so he prioritizes a positive work environment.
On a more personal note, Harker comes from humble beginnings, where he learnt to appreciate workers. “The people do the work, they need to be able to afford to live.”
When asked about the consequences of raising salaries, Hertzog says there are no real negatives. She understands the hesitation to join the living wage movement because many businesses fear a reduction in profits. However, Hertzog counters that living wages help with employee retention, lack of turnover, and happier salespeople, which leads to better sales. “Your salespeople are going to sell better for you because they believe in the business and they want to do well,” she says. Harker also cited no negatives, remarking, “The least we can do is pay a living wage.”
Both employers mention that offering a living wage is only one step toward crafting a healthy work environment. Other ethical business practices, like respecting people’s time and being empathetic, should also be exercised.