As this crisis continues to unfold, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of daily posts, briefings, updates, emergency alerts, breaking news stories, announcements, and directives.
We at the Ontario Living Wage Network are thinking of the many certified living wage employers and their employees and their families at this time. Now more than ever we need these good and decent businesses and organizations.
New employers continue to apply for certification with us, and we are carrying on with our work as we always have. Of course we wont be doing in-person duties such as certificate presentations and other public appearances.
Our thoughts are also with employers and their workers who have seen a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Af of today, April 6th, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit applications are open in addition to several other measures. See Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan for individuals and businesses here:
Many things will change as a result of this pandemic. What strikes me is one that has already shifted: work.
What is essential? Does unskilled labour really exist? Why is a living wage suddenly important now but not a month ago?
Hamilton City Council has been deferring a motion that would pay all their part-time staff a living wage for years. The latest shrug off was early March of this year at 10-4. Fast forward to March 20th, and council changed course.
Loblaws, Metro, Walmart and several other retail grocery chains announced they were giving raises to their workers. Loblaw CEO Galen Weston had previously said in 2018, when questioned about paying a living wage to employees "...we believe that this important public policy issue is best considered by our public institutions as it is far wider in scope than one company, even one as large as Loblaw.” Fast forward to March 2020 and he said "Our colleagues in stores and in distribution centres have been working very hard for many days now, doing a great job to support our customers as we face an unprecedented crisis.”
It's impossible to imagine getting through this challenging time without cashiers, warehouse workers, drivers, couriers, dispatchers, caregivers, and many more traditionally low-waged workers. It would seem there is an awakening to the fact that they all deserve at least a living wage in times when society is put to the test. Going back to old ways of thinking about these roles just because we kicked COVID-19 to the curb would be like laying off the firefighters because the house fire is out.