Toronto brewery becomes first in the city to pay employees at least $22 an hour
Left Field Brewery has announced that the starting wage for its employees is now $22.08—nearly $10 more than the minimum wage for servers in Ontario.
The brewery on Wagstaff Drive, which opened in 2013, is now a certified member of the Ontario Living Wage Network.
It marks the first brewery in Toronto to join the network, which advocates for living wages that match the cost of living in regions across the province.
"It's not just about today," says Mandie Murphy, who runs Left Field with her husband Mark. "For us this is a commitment to keep pace [with the cost of living]."
"We're constantly worried about that. Are people making enough with rent going through the roof in this city?”
Prior to the pandemic, the starting wage for employees working in Left Field's tap room was $14 per hour. That was already higher than Ontario's current minimum server wage, which has been $12.45 per hour since October 2020.
After lockdown hit and the tap room was forced to close, Left Field supplemented their servers' lost gratuities by raising the minimum hourly wages to $18.
As of this past Sunday, the brewery officially pays a minimum of $20.08 per hour to both part-time and full-time employees.
The latter also get a benefits plan that covers dental and medical expenses that was valued by the Ontario Living Wage Network at an additional $2.01 per hour.
All employees receive allowances for beer and Left Field apparel, but have recently seen an increase to their paid sick days as well.
Compared to other businesses during COVID-19, Left Field has been doing relatively well. Pandemic-related layoffs have been widespread in both small businesses and large corporations alike, but the brewery still manages 22 staff, with no COVID-19 layoffs so far.
Aside from shiping beers across Ontario, the brewery has also pivoted to home deliveries and running its bottle shop.
Murphy says that COVID-19 has helped underscore the need for employers to pay a living wage, rather than Ontario's legislated minimum wage, if they can afford it.
"It's not possible for everyone and I recognize the hardships that small businesses are facing right now," says Murphy.
"For us the climate was right. It means less money for the business at the end of the day, but most of the jobs in a brewery can't be conducted at home... Delivery, making the beer, warehousing: our company is made up of essential workers."
The Ontario Living Wage Network, which launched in 2016 as a member-based organization, defines living wage as "what people need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in their community."
The network calculates that amount based on the needs of families, including the cost of food, clothing, housing, access to subsidized childcare, and other expenses specific to a region.
In Toronto, it's $22.08, per 2019 calculations. It's less in other regions like Peterborough, Waterloo, and Kingston, which is no surprise, given Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in Canada.
As of November 2020, the network had more than 331 living wage employers signed up across Ontario, with around 27 in Toronto.
"Paying above the minimum wage is something we've been doing for a long time," says Murphy.
"Treating our employees with respect and dignity, and providing a workplace they'd feel good coming in to everyday, and that we equally feel good about... That's what it was about for us from the start."
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