by David Bob
When we look to the health of our territorial communities we can agree that many more families are struggling in today’s economy. The loss of jobs in both the public and private sectors is impacting everyone’s daily lives. The increasing costs of insurance, food, utilities and many other items are stretching bank accounts to the breaking point. If we are to create healthy communities, people need to earn a fair wage.
As UNW completes their strike vote with the NTPC and GNWT workers, this speaks to the fact that government workers feel that they also deserve a fair wage. Government workers are our neighbours. They enhance the vibrancy of our communities both socially and economically. The loss of government jobs within the communities can be felt with store closures from Fort Simpson to Inuvik.
Aurora College is one example where a decade ago the community campus and the learning centre in Inuvik were in separate locations. Some instructors shared offices due to lack of space but today we see empty staff offices and the college and learning centre combined under one roof.
Decreases in staff have occurred in many divisions of government within our communities. As government jobs disappear and as workers have less buying power each year, less money is spent to help support local businesses. As workers spend less, business owners see a reduction of sales and find themselves unable to employ as many workers as they once did.
Those who do manage to find employment in local stores struggle to pay for basic needs, especially if they make minimum wage, which is not a wage that one can live on. Workers in private industry deserve a living wage.
Every year the cost of living has gone up but minimum wage has not kept pace with the increased costs in the past decade. A minimum wage of $13.46 is not sustainable for the individual worker and many find themselves seeking additional jobs to supplement their income.
Working long hours at multiple jobs does not bring about healthy communities or a healthy lifestyle. Many private sector workers who earn minimum wage cannot spend adequate time with their families, attend community events or afford nutritional food. Low wages impact the social and physical well-being of individuals in all of our communities.
A fair wage is a necessity if we want to continue trying to redevelop and make our communities vibrant once again. We need fair wage jobs for workers that live in our communities, support our communities and create healthy communities. We need to enhance the capacity of locals who support local businesses and to stop enriching southern P3 contractors.
Two companies in the North have recently shown that through education, they can effectively train and employ local workers.
There is not a lack of willingness to work, there is a lack of willingness to train and employ workers. We have an opportunity to start changing this when the cleanup of Giant Mine commences.