A Nova Scotia bicycle shop says paying employees a living wage has helped the business.
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Cyclesmith in Halifax made the move in September 2021. The shop has 31 full-time staff members and they make at least $23.50 per hour, according to owner Andrew Feenstra.
The current minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $13.60. The province plans to reach $15.00 an hour by April 1, 2024.
Feenstra said the higher wages his employees receive make a real difference in their lives and provide a sense of relief.
“They’re not living paycheck to paycheck,” Feenstra said. “If they make a financial mistake it’s not going to have huge effects like whether they can pay rent or their mortgage or buy food for that week.”
Employee Kieran Sharpe said it’s especially helpful for him as he’s also a student.
“Currently, I’m in school as well, which is obviously a big expense. It means that I can work and comfortably pay for my part-time school and rent and all that.”
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said its annual report on living wages aims to provide a benchmark estimate for people to live comfortably.
“That cushion is essential. It’s essential for people to be able not to have to stress about being able to pay their bills at the end of the month,” said Nova Scotia director Christine Saulnier. “But it’s also about them not having to work multiple jobs.”
The centre’s most recent report was released in September. It found the living wage in Halifax is $23.50 per hour. It’s lower in other communities in the province, ranging between $20 and $22.55.
Meantime, the group Nova Scotia Justice for Workers has been knocking on doors to get people to sign a petition asking for a $20 minimum wage and 10 paid sick days.
Volunteer Suzanne MacNeil said they’ve been hearing from many Nova Scotians who say they’ve been struggling to cover their bills amid the high costs of living and soaring inflation.
“There are people that are worried about not being able to make next month’s rent,” MacNeil said. “Worried that they’re not getting enough hours at work. People who are sort of weighing the cost of needing to go to work, but then they can’t afford child care.”
Feenstra said an extra quarter million dollars is coming out of his business to cover the living wage, but it’s worth it.
“We don’t have an issue with retaining staff,” he said. “We don’t have an issue with recruiting staff. The wage really does attract better employees.”
He’s expanding Cyclesmith with a second store in the works and another fifteen employees set to join his team.