When we look to the health of our territorial communities we can agree that many more families are struggling in today’s economy. The loss of jobs in private and government worker sector impacts every one’s daily lives. The increases to insurance, food, utilities and many other items are causing the bank book to stretch further than most can afford. Instead of struggling, people deserve to earn a fair wage if we are to create healthy communities.
As UNW completes their strike vote with the NTPC and GNWT workers, this speaks to the fact that government workers feel that they also deserve a fair wage. The government workers live in our communities and enhance the vibrancy of communities socially and economically. The loss of government jobs within the communities can be felt with store closures from Fort Simpson to Inuvik. Aurora Campus is one example where a decade ago the community college and the Learning Centre in Inuvik were in separate locations. A decade ago some instructors shared offices due to lack of space, today we see empty staff offices, offices being used as storage, and the college and learning centre combined under one roof. Decreases in staff has occurred in many divisions of government within our communities. As Government jobs disappear and as workers have less buying power each year, less money is spent to help support the local businesses. As workers spend less, business owners see a reduction of sales and find themselves unable to employ as many workers as they once did.
Those who do manage to find employment in local stores struggle to pay for basic needs. A minimum wage is not a wage that one can live on. Workers in the private industry deserve a living wage. Every year the cost of living has gone up, but minimum wage has not kept pace with the increased costs in the past decade. A minimum wage of $13.46 is not sustainable for the individual worker, and many find themselves seeking additional jobs to supplement their income. By working longer hours in other jobs, this does not bring about healthy communities and a healthy lifestyle. Instead, many of the private sector workers who earn only the minimum wage must choose between living with family or friends, not being highly active in family or community events throughout the year as they work additional jobs or choosing less nutritional food. A minimum wage impacts the social and physical wellbeing of individuals in all of our communities.
A fair wage is a necessity if we want to continue trying to redevelop and make our communities vibrant once again. We need fair wage jobs for workers that live in our communities, support our communities, and create healthy communities. We need to enhance the capacity of locals who support local business and stop enriching southern P3 contractors. Two companies in the north have recently shown that through education, they can effectively train and employ local workers. There is not a lack of willingness to work, there is a lack of willingness to train and employ workers in gainful employment. We have an opportunity to start changing this when the cleanup of Giant Mine commences.