Wages matter.

Knowledge is power, so here’s a small dose.

At the end of this article is some data I want to present. I gathered it mostly to remind C.A.W.333 members where we stand … roughly … when compared to a sample of typical Canadian cities. The data consists of the average home prices from this past April for ten Canadian cities and one American city, as well as the top rate for transit operators in those cities. With that I calculated an index number to allow an easy apples to apples comparison.

Fun, eh?

Frankly, we don’t do all that well. They say corporations show appreciation through remuneration, so based on my little unscientific research we are one of the least “appreciated” transit unions in Canada. I should mention, the data I present could just as easily apply to the operators of community shuttles, our skilled trades people … pretty much any member of C.A.W.333. As well, I chose home prices because they represent the most basic need of a family. Without the hope of being able to purchase a home, the attempt to bring in part-time operators is a meaningless issue, as nobody who wants full time work in the coming years will take this job for any meaningful length of time. The company might conceivably get a cost savings similar to a part-time workforce through high staff attrition. Don’t laugh, Calgary trains 12 operators at a go, and they have had many classes suffer 100% attrition within just a few months. Graduated pay scales make more sense suddenly.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the data just to get everyone thinking;

1. In the bullpen the normal wage comparison is between Victoria and Vancouver, but the data shows they are both anomalies. Using Vancouver as a comparison therefore does not seem wise. It was the only city I could find who fared worse than we did. I see our using them as a wage base much like a person on a life raft being jealous of the people on the giant ocean liner for having more space, even though the ship is sinking. Not that we cannot learn from Vancouver, I just don’t think linking our future to them makes sense. So, based solely on having a high cost of living, I think Toronto makes more sense. Using their index number as a guide, I calculated that wage parity with Toronto, using my home cost metric, would put us at about $34.11. Alternately, if we decide to go with a city that has a similar demographic profile to us, that gives us Edmonton. Wage parity with them puts us at about $44.67.


I see those numbers as a sobering reminder that we have NOT in fact gained anything these last many years, or even held any sort of ground. We as a union have in fact suffered a massive degradation of our spending power that is somewhat amazing to witness.

2. At some level these numbers will apply to every union in the region. To me this shows yet again the importance of working with other unions to lobby government and take action when needed. To imagine any one union is going to simply ask to be brought back in line with the rest of Canada is absurd. To shift a culture you must first engage it, and unions working together is part of that. It would also not hurt our cause if we joined the growing chorus of voices demanding an increase in the minimum wage.

3. When it comes to wage vs. cost of living disparity, B.C. stands completely alone. That makes the problems we are having with loss of past gains something systemic to B.C., and that should hopefully be telling us as union members we will need to look for solutions to this problem outside of just our small world here in Victoria. Our lobbying efforts might be more well spent addressing sympathetic ears in Ottawa.

We have a lot of work to do, but until we recognize that a different direction is needed the work will not begin.

City Avg. Home Sale Price** Top Rate*** Calculated Index
Victoria $518,536.00 $26.14 19.84
Vancouver $673,579.00 $29.20 23.07
Edmonton $339,172.00 $29.18 11.62
Calgary $395,847.00 $29.32 13.50
Lethbridge $267,306.00 $24.50 10.90
Provincial avg $355,102.00
Ottawa $333,854.00 $26.28 13.63
Toronto $437,566.00 $28.79 15.20
London $242,111.00 $24.25 9.98
Brantford $349,624.00* $23.41 14.93
*Provincial avg $349,624.00
Nova Scotia
Halifax $247,168.00 $24.00 10.30
Provincial Avg $211,970.00
Seattle $340,800.00 $28.47 11.97
* Provincial average home cost used in the calculation will most likely result in an error resulting in a somewhat increased index number due to rural vs urban upward skewing of price data.
** 2011 provincial average Home cost data for April, (Source C.R.E.A., Zillow.com)
***Bus wage data, top rates. Source – collective agreements, hiring brochures, news articles.
Index: home cost/(salary x 1000) = index number
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