Recently, Ontario celebrated "Living Wage Week" - a week dedicated to celebrating Living Wage employers, promote paying a Living Wage, and announce the coming years newly calculated Living Wage.
Two years ago, I made the commitment to become a Living Wage employer. It was a big decision, one that I debated for a number of months. However, ultimately, it fell in line with the vision, mission, and core values that I had developed, embraced, and advocated for over the previous five years - ever since I took over as the third generation owner/operator of my family's petroleum company.
I remember when I first heard about Living Wage. It was simply an email that had come to my inbox one day. At that time, I was already paying my staff of 100 over minimum wage, and offering a small benefits package. I quickly looked at what was required in order to obtain the designation of Living Wage Employer, and felt that I may not be far off fulfilling the requirements already. I gave the task of reaching out to Ontario Living Wage to my Human Resources Manager, to gain more information.
Together, we further perused the requirements. Unfortunately, we were still a ways off of what the calculated Living Wage for my area of Ontario was. Far enough off that the financial investment would be significant. This wasn't a small decision. I sought the advice of others - my accountant, lawyer, and controller. I reworked budgets, and spoke with my benefits provider about a plan for my part-time employees.
My time leading the company had been anything but boring. Challenges had been plentiful, but with every challenge I had grown more confidant in my ability to successfully navigate through. I knew that investing in my staff was something that I would always be proud of, and that it fell in line with my personal goal in life of making a positive impact on the world.
I took a lot of time to make this decision. I knew that by committing to being a Living Wage employer, I was making a decision that would significantly impact my company, and there was no truly measurable return on that investment. I knew that there would be people that would not understand what I was doing - and there are many. Other business owners who question why I would pay so much for a gas attendant, customers that question why my fuel may be a bit more costly than others, community organizations that are disappointed when I have to refuse a donation or sponsorship to their organization.
However, I believe that by paying a Living Wage I am helping Canadians at the most basic level. That, by paying a Living Wage, I am helping families put healthy food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and heat in their homes. I am helping to keep Canadians OUT of the assisted living cycle, helping them to be proud of who they are and what they do - and who they work for.
I hope, when I am old and gray, that I look back on the company and the years that I was the owner/operator and know that this was the right decision. That Niagara is a better place because of the commitment that I made.
Now, it is in the hands of my community of Niagara. Every time someone fills up their vehicle at a Gales Gas Bar they are choosing to support a member of their community - a friend, family member, or neighbour. They are choosing to support a company that invests into their employees as no other in Ontario does - I was, and am still, the ONLY Living Wage Champion in the petroleum industry in Ontario. I know there are many that support Gales because of this designation, and I thank them for it. They are helping to make a difference.
I'm proud of my decision. I believe that I am making a positive impact on my employees, their families, and the future of Niagara by committing to be a Living Wage Champion.
When you see that green emblem, designating a Living Wage employer, stop and think about it. That owner has taken the time to invest significantly in the future of their employees. To commit to paying a Living Wage because they believe it is the right thing to do - not because they have to, but because they want to.
It means a lot. As does every customer who chooses to support that business.
Until next time.................................................... XO-JGF
Let's connect! Email me at