We Anglicans are motivated by a sense of social justice and radical equality that is deeply rooted in the Scriptures and in our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus. The Diocese of New Westminster is engaged in numerous social justice and outreach initiatives, some of which are aimed at affirming the individual and collective worth of people who daily struggle with the effects of economic poverty – a poverty that produces in its wake social poverty, intellectual poverty and various kinds of family poverty. The following observation sums up a critical situation right in our own back yard:
“Families who work for low wages face impossible choices – buy food or heat the house, feed the children or pay the rent. The result can be spiraling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. In many cases it means that the adults in the family are working long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities. They have little time to spend with their family, much less to help their children with school work or participate in community activities. The frustration of working harder only to fall further behind is one many BC residents can relate to.”
The Living Wage for Families Campaign, March 15, 2012
The Living Wage for Families Campaign is alive and well in Vancouver. Living wage movements have been gaining steam in the UK, across the US and in a number of Canadian cities. Organizations and businesses in Britain, for example, are signing on to agreements stipulating that all direct and contract staff are paid no less than a ‘living wage’ as defined by local economic realities, are eligible for 20 days paid holiday plus statutory holidays and eligible for 10 days full sick pay per year.
As people of faith and as Anglicans, we affirm the family unit. “The living wage is first and foremost a call to public and private sector employers (primarily larger ones) to sustain families. This can be achieved through wages, or a combination of wages and benefits (such as health benefits, coverage of MSP premiums, transit passes, etc.).” (Working for a Living Wage: 2011 Update, page 7)
Of course, government policies and programs also have a direct impact on our standard of living. Presently, most government transfers and subsidies are reduced or eliminated once a family reaches an income level that is still well below a realistic living wage. And that is a serious problem in our province – the jurisdiction with the highest child poverty rate in Canada.
What, then, is a living wage? The living wage is calculated as the hourly rate at which a household can meet its basic needs, once government transfers have been added to a family’s income and deductions have been subtracted. In Vancouver, for example, living wages have been calculated, taking a number of factors into consideration:
- two-parent, two-child family: $18.81 per hour (an increase of 3.5% over 2010)
Single parent, one-child family: $18.59 per hour.
Child care costs continue to rise, transportation costs are soaring, and MSP premiums have increased. A look at the FamWorking for a Living Wage: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver – 2011 Update provides a full break down ‘bare-bones’ budget for 18.81 per hour, or $34,234 annually for two parents working full-time. (see livingwageforfamilies.ca). It’s an eye-opener.
“Living Wage” is a way for Anglicans to add our collective voice to an important social justice and community poverty issue, joining with other community, business, municipal and faith partner groups. As the 2011 Update states, “The living wage is one of the most powerful tools available to address this troubling state of poverty amid plenty in BC. It allows us to get serious about reducing child poverty, and ensures that families who are working hard get what they deserve – a fair shake, and a life that’s about more than a constant struggle to get by.” (page 2)
An information meeting on Living Wage is being planned specifically for Anglicans. The Coalition is eager to expand the involvement of faith communities in its work and to partner with those who live out similar values. Watch for more details and consider attending.
Rev. Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and one of the blog masters at New Westminster Anglican blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.