Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 15, 2007
Alberta boom leaves many workers behind
A quarter of Albertans make less than $12 an hour, say activists
"Not everybody is benefitting from the Alberta boom."
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Alberta is a rich province with Albertans earning an average of $20 per hour. But a closer look reveals that the prosperity has not benefitted everyone equally.
According to Public Interest Alberta, a province-wide organization that advocates on issues of public interest, a quarter of employed Albertans were making less than $12 per hour in 2005 and are not able to make ends meet.
Over half (184,400) of workers earning less than $12 per hour were over 25 and more than 22,000 of them earned the minimum wage of $7 per hour. Two thirds of workers earning less than $12 an hour in 2005 were women.
"Not everybody is benefitting from the Alberta boom," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "Thousands of Albertans go to work everyday and can't make ends meet."
McGowan is one of several union leaders and social activists calling on provincial and municipal governments to establish living wage policies for all business and organizations that get government contracts.
At a Jan. 10 press conference hosted by Public Interest Alberta (PIA), McGowan joined several others in calling for an increase in the minimum wage and for living wage policies at both the provincial and municipal levels of government.
Cost of living
They said Alberta's minimum wage, currently at $7 per hour, must reflect the real cost of living and should be indexed to the inflation rate.
"The 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," McGowan said.
PIA released a report that shows too many Albertans are not earning a living. "It is clear that the high percentage of employed Albertans earning less than $12 per hour do not have incomes sufficient to cover the average estimated monthly living costs of individuals and families living in Alberta," noted Bill Moore-Kilgannon, spokesman for PIA.
The 12-page report shows a family of four in Alberta needs about $2,400 per month to cover the costs of their basic necessities, namely food, housing, transportation and utilities - nothing else.
The report, titled Working Poor or Making a Living?, shows that if a family of four was to include household costs such as clothing, furnishing, recreation, health care, education and savings in its expenses it would need $4,254 a month to maintain a safe, healthy standard of living.
A single parent family with three children aged three, six and nine needs $4,635 a month. A single person in his mid-30s living alone needs $2,351 a month, according to the report.
These results are based on a province-wide online and mail-in survey conducted by PIA between March and October 2006.
Moore-Kilgannon said many Albertans have to hold two jobs to earn a living wage. Others simply have to go without recreation or even a car.
In an interview he spoke of a single mother who no longer registers her young children in sports in order to make ends meet.
"Most Albertans agree that everyone who works at a job full time should earn enough income to maintain a safe, healthy standard of living," Moore-Kilgannon said.
Striking casino workers
In an interview, Rick Schneider of the United Food and Commercial Workers called for solidarity with Palace Casino workers who have been on strike for 120 days.
They make a starting wage of $7.05 an hour and can expect to make just over $11 after 10 years on the job. They are demanding a $1 an hour increase and three per cent a year increase after that.
"There are a lot of people being left behind in Alberta," Schneider lamented.
Letter to the Editor - 02/05/07