January 25, 2019 8:43 am

London council scraps minimum wage increase to $15 for civic employees

London City Hall as seen June 14, 2017 (Matthew Trevithick/AM980)

Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL File

On the heels of a promise by the mayor to lift people out of unemployment, London city councillors quashed a minimum wage increase to $15 from $14 for its entry-level, seasonal employees.

The increase was baked into the budget already, in anticipation of legislation by the former Liberal government that never made it on the books. That left councillors wondering what to do with the $521,000 it had originally planned to dole out to casual staff annually.

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READ MORE: London council gets first glance at draft 2019 budget update

“Personally, it was one of the toughest votes I’ve made,” said Ward 7 councillor and budget chair Josh Morgan. Council was divided on the issue, with nine councillors — including Morgan — agreeing to leave the minimum wage for those civic employees at $14 instead, and six councillors voting in favour of the increase.

“It’s a very challenging issue, to have added in a contemplated raise for our casual employees who are making minimum wage. And then basically removing that, before it’s actually executed.”

But there’s no shortage of ways to spend half a million dollars, Morgan explained.

During the debate, councillors whittled down the 2019 proposed operating budget increase to 2.7 per cent from 3.2 per cent. That would keep the operating budget increase in line with the 2.7 per cent municipal tax hike for the current year, and means the average homeowner with a house assessed at $221,000 would pay about $76 more in 2019.

READ MORE: Mayor Ed Holder announces unemployment task force during first State of the City address

Just hours earlier, Mayor Ed Holder addressed London’s “most vulnerable” during his first ever State of the City address. In something of both a challenge and committement, Holder said he wanted to get 13,000 of London’s 77,000 unemployed back to work by the time of his next address in 2020.

That would have a positive impact on people struggling with housing, poverty, and addiction, he said.

In other highlights from Thursday’s meeting, councillors agreed to give the Children’s Museum $2 million for its new facility at 100 Kellog Lane. They also supported the hiring of a full-time psychologist and admin staff to expand London Police Service’s “safeguard” program at a cost of $161,000.

The budget debates continues on Monday.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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