Thursday, June 22, 2006

A rant on wages...

A few weeks ago, a local business columnist spoke to a group of professionals who are actively seeking meaningful work (me included). He told us about how a group of business leaders had met and discussed their challenges: finding good people to work. He cited one business owner who had 40% staff turnover a month, or some such ridiculous figure.

We all jumped in and pointed out that it was no mystery for us -- obviously the guy paid shit. It's all about the money, unless the work is totally rewarding in some intrinsic way to an individual. Oh, it might be the benefits, the flexible hours, the perks...but if the money is too low, why would anyone stay?

In the lovely valley where I now live, the businesses were enticed in over the last 20 years with the promise of cheap labour and beautiful environs -- and people were told, when they complained about low wages, that it was a 'sunshine tax'. [From "Okanagan Sustainable Prosperity Study" 2004]

Another feature of sustainable prosperity was the upward growth in wages. Historically, the Okanagan had been known for its “sunshine tax” where jobs simply paid less in the Okanagan than in other places because people took a pay cut to experience the quality of life. Unfortunately, that strategy had started to create disgruntled workers and frustrated employers who were not accustomed to paying the salaries necessary to get qualified people—even if those people assumed
a pay cut based on salaries in Toronto.

Well, that time is over, but businesses are still figuring that out (the study cited above says the transition from "sunshine tax" to a living wage has been relatively painless.) Stores can't get/keep service staff. There's a huge need for skilled labour. "Help Wanted" signs are peppered all over town, some companies are raising their starting wage, but it's still not enough. It is more and more expensive to live here, and the rental market is tight.

And with the right skills, the labour market is wide open -- with fierce competition for the right workers. A career coach with a column on (the Central Okanagan news site) says:
I’ve recently spoken with a recruitment company who are seeking Class 1 Drivers
with air brake tickets. This company has been contracted to find lesser paid
drivers in the interior of BC to go work in Alberta’s oil patch. In particular
this company is focusing its attention on the Okanagan Valley. The reason for
looking in the Okanagan is because workers have been paid less than elsewhere.
In the Okanagan workers have experienced something known as the “sunshine tax.”
Say goodbye to the “sunshine tax!”

The local paper had two articles this morning that were related: one about illegal basement suites hopefully being legalized to help with the rental market. The other was about entry level service jobs being so plentiful here that teenagers were finding it easier to wake up with a hangover after partying all night to just go find another job than to call their old job to quit.

So folks....think of going into skilled trades if you're not already there, and don't live in the United States of America, where the Senate, in its overpaid 'wisdom', has voted to NOT increase the minimum wage of $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour -- to have come into effect gradually over 2 years!! Some bleeding hardship that woulda been.

I can't really think of anything scathing enough to say...



Sonia said...

I must have a bulls eye painted on my forehead. I would work for little to no money if the employer treats me with respect and dignity. I completly agree that the wages in the valley are completly below par but have found myself staying in low paying jobs because I am passionate about what I do and the organizations that I work for. Sucker I may be, broke I am as well - but loving the people I work with --- for sure! (tired and worn out? That is for another days blog)

Metro said...

I'd like to point out that we are paying the sunshine tax. I love my work, but come next year there's like to be a rude shock around here somewhere.

The terrific thing is, if they fired me tomorrow I could go work the oilpatch at three-and-a-half times my current wages!

It's nice having two recognized skills. Well three, actually, but the third is of use to a relatively small segment of the population, and while I could possibly make money from it I refuse to, ahem, prostitute my talents.

Lori said...

Sonia -- I agree with you. It's all about the people you with with, and for. I'm hoping to get a p/t job with Big Brothers Big Sisters, mostly because I want to be working for an organization I believe in.

Metro, my're great, but I don't think you cou- I mean should 'prostitute' yourself.

raincoaster said...

Somebody's sleeping on the couch for that, I'm sure.