Yukon tradespeople deserve a fair pay

In December, a British Columbia company contracted by the Yukon government posted job offers for skilled workers at pay levels well below those set for Yukon’s tradespeople. When the issue was brought up in the media, the company backtracked.

Those pay levels are set in Yukon’s Fair Wage Schedule, which ensures that tradespeople are fairly compensated for their skilled labour by setting a minimum wage for tradespeople working on most large government projects. The schedule is part of the tendering process; contractors usually factor it into their quotes so that fair wages don’t become casualties of contract competition.

Unfortunately, this violation of the Fair Wage Schedule isn’t an isolated case. No later than last week, another government contractor tried to hire a labourer at an hourly rate almost $8 per hour below that trade’s mandated fair wage. Once again, it took a complaint from a concerned tradesperson to modify the posting.

Paying tradespeople below the fair wage isn’t just unfair to the workers themselves: it could lead to fewer Yukoners, and more Outside workers, getting jobs on Yukon government contracts. When jobs are posted at a rate below what they’re worth, Yukon tradespeople may chose not to apply. The company can then turn around and, claiming a lack of local interest, bring in non-Yukon workers. That hurts our economy, which affects us all.

I wrote to the Minister of Highways and Public Works and the Minister responsible for the Employment Standards Act in December to ask what the government will do to make sure contractors respect their obligation to pay fair wages to tradespeople. I also asked about the consequences for companies that don’t offer fair wages.

I have yet to hear back.

It’s no secret that enforcing the Fair Wages Schedule for tradespeople was not a priority for the previous government. Yukon’s new government needs to change course and demand respect for tradespeople. It is, after all, the government’s responsibility to enforce fair wage provisions on government projects.

Skilled Yukon workers, and the people who depend on their livelihoods, can count on the Yukon NDP to stand up for fair wages and strong labour rights in the legislature. My door is always open to anyone who wants to be heard.

Kate White
Red seal baker and MLA for Takhini—Kopper King


Photo: Scott Lewis/Creative Commons