Resident says living wage policy violated

A Royal City resident is questioning whether everyone working on the city's future civic centre is earning the living wage.

On Jan. 1, 2011, the City of New Westminster became a living wage employer, which requires all firms that are contracted directly or indirectly by the city to provide services on city premises to pay their employees a living wage.

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The city's website states that the figure for 2010/2011 in the Lower Mainland is $18.17 if no benefits are provided by the employer.

Christopher Bell is alleging that a subcontractor working on the civic centre site isn't paying the living wage to flag persons. His complaint arose after speaking to one of the flag persons and being told she was paid $12 an hour and receiving no benefits.

"The financial numbers involved are considerable, as the difference between the $12 an hour apparently being paid the flag person and the $18.17 an hour living wage adds up to about $50 per eight-hour shift per worker not being paid to the flag persons," Bell told council Monday night. "The contractor has been on the site for many months, and there are often two flag persons working throughout the day."

Bell has requested that an independent financial audit be done of the New Westminster multi-use civic facility contractor's pay records to determine whether the flag persons are earning the living wage.

"They have a hard job," Bell told The Record. "They are wrangling all those cement trucks, they are wrangling all those dump trucks."

Lisa Spitale, the city's director of development services, said staff received Bell's letter. "We circulated it internally so we are looking at it."

Mayor Wayne Wright also assured Bell that the matter would be examined by staff.

"We will find out about it right away," he told The Record Tuesday. "We have to make sure he is right. If he is, we are on the same page."

According to the city's website, all of the city's competitive bid documents include a declaration and a clause referencing the city's expectations regarding compliance with the policy.

The City of New Westminster made national headlines in April 2010, when city council approved a living wage policy.

A living wage is often defined as being the minimum hourly wage that's necessary for a family of four, with two parents working full-time, to pay for food, shelter and other daily needs.

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