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Growing number of Alberta businesses commit to living wage for employees

Click to play video: 'More Alberta businesses sign on to ensuring a ‘living wage’' More Alberta businesses sign on to ensuring a ‘living wage’
WATCH: A growing number of Alberta businesses are committed to providing their employees with a “living wage”. Tomasia DaSilva looks at what that means for workers and their paystubs. – Feb 15, 2022

A push to get more Alberta employers to pay their employees higher wages — or at least a living wage — appears to be paying off.

A living wage is a regional calculation that looks at the amount of money that a family of four (two adults working full-time) needs to earn to meet their expenses and support the successful development of their children.

The Alberta Living Wage Network, which launched the Alberta Living Wage Employer program last November, told Global News 34 employers have already signed up.

“We’re very buoyed by the (initial) response of employers in our province, and we’re very hopeful that the numbers will greatly increase in the months and years to come,” group chair Franco Savoia said.

The employers who have already joined come from a variety of industries including retail, grocery, industrial and professional organizations. The bulk of them are in Calgary (14) and Edmonton (14) with a few others spread out across the province.

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Watch: Cost of living climbs in Calgary prompting renewed calls for a ‘living wage’

Calgary-based cleaning company Home Spritz is one of the employers to officially sign on. It has offices in Calgary and Edmonton as well as the Vancouver area and employs about 22 people. It said paying its cleaning contractors a living wage is a win-win.

“It supports the quality of life for everybody,” COO Yeonsil Kang said, “without anyone left behind.”

Calgary-based Home Spritz helps fight poverty with “living wage.”. Courtesy: Home Spritz

Kang co-founded the company three years ago, making it more of a marketplace platform. The cleaners are vetted and screened but not considered employees per se, rather contractors.

She said she has found that partnership, along with paying them a living wage, has resulted in respect and success.

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“It’s really helpful for us to hire higher-quality cleaners,” Kang added. “The retention rate is very good. They end up staying with our clients longer, and it makes our clients happy.

“We just try to pay sufficient amount for them to support their family on their own.”

Kang said as an immigrant, she knows how hard it can be to build a life in Canada and she wanted to make it easier for others to get ahead.

Cleaning contractor Dione Livingstone said it has certainly made her life easier, adding before working for Home Spritz, it was a challenge.

“You’re just making it. You’re just making it,” she said. “You can make ends meet, but it’s hard.”

Now Livingstone said depending on the job, she can clear up to $40 an hour. Home Spritz takes 18 per cent of the total cost of any job, but she gets the rest.

“Now I make the same amount of money that I would independently cleaning, so it makes it more feasible for me to live.”

She added because she is a contractor and not an employee, she can also choose her own hours making it ideal for single moms or people who choose to work part time.

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“It’s made a huge difference. I can do what I love. I can make what I deserve.”

Read more: Calgary business owner shows support for living wage with decal campaign for store windows

According to the Alberta Living Wage Network, the living wage varies across the province.

In Calgary and Edmonton, it came in at $18.60 and $18.10 in 2021. But in places like Cochrane and Canmore, those numbers rose to $22.60 and $37.40, respectively, while the living wage rang in at $27.35 in Fort McMurray.

Home Spritz said it adjusts the wages for its contractors depending on the region. Kang added that has cost the company but also allowed it to grow.

“While we are taking smaller margins, we can still expand in a bigger region to make this happen.”

The company has now set its sights on expanding across Canada and North America in the next five years.

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