Living Wage, Much More Than Just Minimum Wage

Menno Martin founded his company in 1942 and he ran it based on the Golden Rule of doing to others as you want them to do to you. In 2010 when Art Janzen and I started to buy the company we put a little twist on that rule. We run the company on the philosophy of “Putting People First”. This philosophy influences every decision we make in our business. Living Wage for our employees is just one way that we are Putting People First.msm-group-shot Summer 2016

Living Wage Waterloo Region (LWWR) describes Living Wage (LW) as “the wage an earner in a family needs to bring home based on the actual costs of living in a specific community”. It sets a higher standard than minimum wage. Minimum wage is set by the government as the lowest wage a business is legally allowed to pay an employee. LWWR is part of the larger Ontario Living Wage Network but also part of a growing global initiative to move wages beyond the minimum to something more equitable.

The construction industry is filled with examples of exploited workers, underpaid labourers and unsafe working conditions. The renovation sector is notorious for being linked to the underground economy where it is the wild west: there are many renovators who avoid & skirt regulations, avoid taxes and promote the ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of cost cutting, including paying terrible wages.

At Menno Martin Contractor we want to model our company differently: a construction company that is up front, equitable and reputable. A long time ago we made the business decision to pay fair wages and benefits to all our staff. In 2016, we officially became a Living Wage Champion to be a public model of our values.

On the surface it could look like it costs more to pay a Living Wage employer but dig a little deeper and you find a different story:

  • We have less staff turnover. This saves us time and money on training
  • We save time and energy on integrating staff into our company culture
  • Long term staff ensures we can deliver outstanding quality service to our clients
  • Paying staff well also helps us attract top quality people who really want to join us and stay a long term emplyees
  • Our staff take pride in working for a company that values them so highly
  • It is an investment in our community and helps ensure prosperity in Waterloo RegionDSC_7000 copy

Fully implementing LW into our business was an interesting exercise for us. We have 16 full time and one part time staff but we also deal with even more subcontractors who work for us on our job sites. These can include: excavators, concrete workers, masons, roofers, siding installers, insulators, plumbers, electricians, heating contractors, drywall workers, flooring installers, tile installers, cabinet workers and painters. We came up with a list of 24 regular sub-trade companies who represent over 75 staff who work for us. We connected with all the company owners to see how their wage grids compared to LWWR’s pay rate. They were all very supportive. One company made a minor shift in their grid for their new hires to comply with the LW. In the end we confirmed compliance with all of them.

Since announcing our participation in LWWR we have received lots of positive feedback from the community. We are looking forward to continuing to educate our own staff about LW and promoting the concept within our industry circles. There is lots of room for improvement in the industry and we are happy to play a small part.


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