EDMONTON—"Most Albertans agree that everyone who works at a job full time should earn enough income to maintain a safe, healthy standard of living," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.
"However, the report we released today makes it clear that far too many Albertans are not earning a living wage. The time has come for our provincial and municipal governments to commit to being part of the solution by establishing living wage policies. The report, written by the Edmonton Social Planning Council for Public Interest Alberta, is the result of a year-long research initiative that involved consultations with Albertans and includes new statistics on poverty and the number of low wage workers in the province."
The results of the survey and focus groups are an important starting point in defining a living wage in Alberta," says the report’s author, Anette Wickenheiser, researcher with the Edmonton Social Planning Council. "While living costs vary from family to family, the rising prices of goods and services are impacting all Albertans, and many households' incomes aren't keeping pace."
The report demonstrates that Alberta’s minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation (now $7.00 compared to a high in 1976 of $9.50 / hour in 2005 constant dollars) and cannot be considered a living wage. It also provides the latest statistics showing that close to 25% of all employed Albertans earned less than $12/ hour in 2005. While not everyone earning less than $12/ hour lives in poverty, one in five Alberta families with children under 18 (68,700 families) earn less than Statistics Canada’s low-income cut off (LICO) before income supports.
"The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) is concerned about the degree and depth of poverty," says Jessica Smith, Research Coordinator for the ACSW. "There are many implications for all of society when individuals and families in the bottom 30% of the income range in this province do not earn enough to maintain a safe and healthy standard of living."
"The Conservative government has a particular responsibility during the current boom to ensure that hard-working Albertans are not left behind because the cost of living outstrips their wages," says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "This report should be seen as a call to action to the new Employment Minister Iris Evans and to provincial politicians of all stripes."
"Our member organizations are currently unable to recruit and retain sufficient staff," said John Meston, Executive Director of The Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families, which represents over 120 organisations that provide services to vulnerable and at-risk children, youth and families."This is creating high risk circumstances for our children and families. As of Oct 16, 2006 the six month turnover of staff in member agencies was 1,742 and there were 791 positions still vacant as of that date. We strongly support the development of Living Wage policies."
"The overall message is clear," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon. "We urgently need action by both levels of government – we need effective living wage policies and a comprehensive province-wide poverty reduction plan."
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