CSU becomes first undergrad student union in BC to take the position

Annalisse Crosswell // Contributor

The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) has committed to paying their staff a living wage. This makes them the first undergraduate student union in BC to take this leadership position and for their work, the Living Wage for Families Campaign intends to honour them with a plaque.

Trying to live on minimum wage in Vancouver can be a struggle to say the least. A living wage is the estimated average hourly wage that a household requires to pay their basic expenses. This is generally almost double BC’s current minimum wage of $11.35 per hour, which was raised from $10.85 on Sept. 15. The Living Wage for Families Campaign is working toward getting more employers in BC to pay their employees a living wage, which they have determined to be $20.62 per hour. They recognize employers who, according to organizer Deanna Ogle, “[have] demonstrated to the [campaign] that they pay all direct staff a living wage and have done their best efforts to ensure that any contracted staff are also paid a living wage.” So far the campaign, which has been running since 2008, has signed up over 90employersas well as seven municipalities, including the City of Vancouver.

Their living wage takes into account such things as childcare, housing, groceries, transportation and also includes two college courses per year for one parent. Though the campaign is clearly aimed at families, Ogle noted that this number is relevant to single occupancy households too. The main reasons for this is that there is not a huge difference in the cost of housing when living alone and buying in bulk, as often happens in family households, which results in cheaper products overall.

According to Perry Safari, CSU president and vice president finance and services, the Living Wage Policy does not mean a change in the budget for the CSU. Staff members were already being paid a wage that, with salary and benefits included, exceeded the requirements of the campaign. This includes unionized staff and the executive director, but not student executives or board members. “Members of the Capilano Students’ Union can be proud that their student society has been able to make their progressive commitment,” he said.

The CSU decided to get involved in the campaign despite already paying their employees a living wage because they wish to advocate for living wages in BC. They want to encourage the changes at a provincial level and the campaign sets an example for other institutions and employers. Not only this, but they acknowledge that students at Capilano University are already in and going into jobs where they deserve to be paid a wage that they can actually live on. They will also take future steps so that when contracts are up for renewal – like Student Care – the CSU will ensure they pay their staff living wages too.

In announcing their involvement, the CSU decided that they would issue their own statement rather than sign Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2’s open letter, which has been circulating the University since the start of the semester and signed by several faculties and other staff. “We did find that SEIU 2’s open letter seemed to place a lot of the pressure and blame squarely on the shoulders of the University,” he said, adding that the complexities of funding for universities played into their decision and that the CSU felt their statement articulated this better.

Ogle and Safari are both enthusiastic about the campaign and it is something that students can definitely be proud of. The living wage movement is not only important for CapU, but also for the province and the rest of Canada.

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