Local health unit increasing living wage program hourly rate by 9.3%

Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex is one of 35 local employees participating in the Living Wage program. (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)
Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex is one of 35 local employees participating in the Living Wage program. (Jason Viau/CBC - image credit)

An hourly rate known as the living wage in Windsor-Essex is increasing by 9.3 per cent.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit runs the Living Wage program and sets the rate each year based on someone's expected costs for shelter, transportation, food and other factors. The health agency said income inequity contributes to poor health outcomes.

The new living wage rate for 2022 is now set at $18.15 an hour, up from the 2021 rate of $16.60 and much higher than the provincial minimum wage of $15.50.

There are 35 workplaces that are a part of the Living Wage program and have committed to paying employees no less than the rate of pay established by the health unit.

Jason Viau/CBC
Jason Viau/CBC

Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex is one of those employers. Executive director Fiona Coughlin said without a living wage, her workers wouldn't make enough money to qualify to live in the homes they build.

"They literally put their blood, sweat and tears into building affordable homes for people in need in Windsor," said Coughlin. "For them to feel they are appreciated and paid fairly for the work they do is essential."

Habitat for Humanity 'applaids' living wage increase

Although it's a sharp increase of 9.3 per cent, Coughlin said it's much needed given the rising cost of living due to inflation and high housing costs.

"If we believe in an organization that is supposed to be reducing poverty in our community and eliminating poverty housing, we cannot pay poverty wages. I applaud it," said Coughlin.

Next, she'll have to look at how to balance the books, but added she'll find a way. As a non-profit, most of the money they used to build homes is raised through it's ReStore, which sells building supplies to the public.

Supplied by Bonnie Krysowaty
Supplied by Bonnie Krysowaty

There also aren't too many staff on hand as they rely heavily on volunteers, she added.

Coughlin said it's important to invest in her staff to ensure they're making enough to support themselves. If not, they may struggle to get to work, find another higher-paying job, which leads to more turnover and an increased cost in training.

"I'm sure lots of other employers are going to have to sharpen their pencils and figure out ways to do this. At the end of the day, I think a healthy, thriving staff is how we get our goals achieved," said Coughlin.