Monday, January 8, 2018

UPDATED: You Get What You Pay For

That fundamental truth is grasped by two small-scale entrepreneurs, much to the shame of much larger entities like Tim Hortons which, as widely reported, are taking out their outrage and venality on their employees.

Gilleen Witkowski, who operates a dog-walking business in Toronto, has this to say:
“I’m a millennial and my whole working life, the minimum wage was frozen or close to frozen. That’s my context,” says the 32-year-old co-founder of Walk My Dog.

“I’ve seen people attempt and fail to make a living on just minimum wage, and watched people struggle in the new economy to get good jobs with their degrees.”

Her decent work strategy, she says, has proved a success.

“I totally understand the concerns around cost because I am a small business now. But I think the benefits outweigh the cost. The loyalty I’ve seen from my staff is incredible.”

“It’s doing the right thing, but there are tangible benefits and that is my low turnover,” she added.
Those truths were something that took Damin Starr longer to discover. Originally employed by his hard-nosed father, who taught him that the bottom line is the only thing that really matters, Starr eventually started his own company, PreLine Processing, and retained his father's chief tenet,
leaning heavily on minimum wage temp agency workers.

The epiphany, he says, came when he returned from Toronto having secured a $40,000 contract, only to find $10,000 worth of mistakes on his shop floor in Lincoln, Ont.

“I was working all sorts of extra hours because I had inexperienced workers making mistakes,” he says. “I’m not blaming the workers. I blame myself. What a miserable environment I had.”
After sitting down with his permanent employees, Starr made some 'radical' changes:
... [H]e dumped temp agencies and ramped up wages. Together with his employees, he calculated a living wage for his region — which in 2012, he figured to be $15 an hour.

“We decided that you couldn’t work for us for less,” he said, noting his base rate is now more than $17 an hour.

“People were thrilled with the fact that there was a commitment to ensure that nobody wouldn’t be able to pay their bills at the end of the day,” he added.

“Something occurred during that time that made me proud of the business and proud of the staff.”
Change is never easy. However, despite the loud protestations of some businesses, it seems that treating one's workers with respect and dignity is not the money-losing proposition the reactionary right would have us believe.

UPDATE: Still not convinced? Take a look at what Ivan Gedz is doing in Ottawa for his restaurant employees:
A Centretown restaurant is boosting base wages for its kitchen crew to $16 an hour, a move that will affect half-a-dozen staff while making a “negligible” difference in prices for customers, its co-owner says.


  1. Henry ford realized a century ago, Lorne, that if you want your employess to buy your product or service, you have to pay them enough to do so.

    1. It would seem that many titans of business have yet to discover that truth, Owen.

  2. We have come to believe that neoliberalism has rendered obsolete the need to balance labour and capital, public interest and private interest, in order to have a healthy society and a healthy economy. One does not exist in isolation of the other except in countries that none of us would wish on anyone. When commercial forces, the private sector, become unduly dominant there's not enough oxygen left to sustain democracy. This hard truth today's woefully diminished political caste cannot seem to grasp. From the beginning of the Harper era, even before that, the matter of labour became principally a function of "back to work" strike breaking. It was a shameless effort to break labour on the wheel of corporatism, a precondition to the maintenance of a corporatist state that is Canada of the 21st century. It is in his fealty to corporatism that we may glimpse the real face of Justin Trudeau.

    1. Probably one of the best illustrations of your point is to be found in the prosperous province of Ontario. The fact that 'replacement workers,' i.e. scabs, are permitted during strikes is something that seems to offend no politician, regardless of his or her party affiliation.