Proposed changes to SA part-time wages draw criticism

Students to vote on changes to part-time wage and election bylaws at Sept. 27 meeting

Updated at 6 p.m. with a clarification on Arielle Sugarman’s comments, and the time that the meeting takes place.

Ahead of its special meeting, the Student Association (SA) board of directors is facing criticism for proposed changes to the bylaws affecting the wages of its part-time staff.

The Dialog is funded by the SA.

The SA board is aiming to amend Article 10.9 of the bylaws to make wages of their part-time staff $15 starting in January 2018. The current bylaws state that the minimum wage of the SA’s part-time staff is 125 per cent of Ontario’s legal minimum wage.

If the SA retains the 125 per cent clause, wages for SA part-time staff would be raised to $17.50 when Ontario’s minimum wage moves up to $14 in January.

“The current bylaw was created because Toronto, Ontario has ridiculously priced living expenses and it needs to be compensated by people having a living wage,” said Elizabeth Orbe, a SA part-time staff member. “The minimum wage currently is not a living wage and in my opinion neither is $15.”

Last week, director of communications and internal Riddhi Modi said that she hasn’t received any direct pushback on the change and that the students are supportive of the SA paying more than the legal minimum wage in Ontario.

“Since the government is going to $14 starting January we still want to be ahead of the government and pay our students better,” said Modi.

Orbe said the way the board is portraying the wage change to $15 is misleading and that 125 per cent of Ontario’s minimum wage is more “ahead of the game.”

Modi was not immediately available to respond to Orbe’s comments.

However, director of education Tiffany White said during the SA board meeting in August that not changing the bylaw could lead to 50 per cent of part-time jobs being cut.

“To be blunt, it’s either we hire 120 to 150 part-time staff every year at $15 an hour, or we hire maybe 40 to 60 part-time staff at 125 per cent (of minimum wage) and make cuts in other areas and hope students can understand,” White said.

On Sept. 21, The Dialog surveyed 14 student unions in Ontario that had job postings listed. Eight had wages starting at less than $12 an hour, three paid $12 to $13, one paid $13 to $14 and only two student unions offered a wage over $14 an hour — the SA at $14.25 and the York Federation of Students at $15.

Heather Eldridge, employment services administrator at George Brown College told The Dialog that the college offers to pay their part-time staff a starting wage of $11.40.

Arielle Sugarman, another SA part-time staff member, said the way that the proposed wage change is being discussed is “disingenuous.” 

Sugarman also said they have concerns about the accessibility of the meeting due to its timing and the way it was promoted.

“They are making it as difficult as possible for students to know about this and for students to attend it,” said Sugarman.

The meeting is scheduled to start on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. at the Casa Loma Student Centre

In the SA bylaws it states that the director of communications and internal must publish notices of a special meeting in The Dialog and on all of the SA’s notice boards. An advertisement for the meeting ran in the Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 edition of The Dialog. It was also posted to the SA’s website and social media platforms and included in an email sent by the college to all current full-time students.

At the meeting students will also vote on suggested changes to Article 13, bylaws that govern how the SA runs its elections.

At its general meeting in March, students voted to remove many of its election bylaws. The board’s election committee has since made a number of recommendations that students will consider at the meeting.

Agendas for the meeting are available on the Student Association website.

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Proposed changes to SA part-time wages draw criticism