Cyclical nature of the work, study and (im)balance. Ontario’s minimum wage issues and part-time jobs at Carleton University.

Every morning, third-year journalism student Noah Richardson makes sure that he’s awake by 9:00 a.m. Once he’s up, he follows a daily routine that he has set out for himself to help him prepare for his day: a quick shower, a cup of coffee and a granola bar. Once this is out of the way, Richardson is ready to tackle the day. When he’s not scrambling to get to class, he’s busy running over to one of his three part-time jobs.

Richardson relies on three jobs to help pay for his post-secondary education. On top of his heavy course load, he works as a Residence Fellow, a Tele-counsellor, and a Campus Tour Guide.

“I think it is tricky to be a student,” admitted Richardson. Students are not only expected to study and keep good grades, they are also expected to “pay for tuition, stay healthy and live a balanced life.”

Second-year Communication and Media Studies student Princess Javier also works as a Residence Fellow. She is also a cashier at Abstentions.

Javier said that the reason why she is working two jobs at Carleton is not only because she wants to be more independent from her parents when it comes to expenses, but also so that she can have a “biweekly [cash] flow coming in.”

“If I am not doing tours as a Residence Fellow, I’m either working at abstentions [or] I’m working on assignments. If not… I’m either working on God knows what. I’m usually always working,” admitted Javier with a sigh.

Like most students, the cost of attending a post-secondary institution perpetuates stress for Javier. “I usually stay up until ungodly hours just to finish an assignment, and next I have work,” she said.

"I love my job because it makes me feel like I made a difference in someone's life," said Princess Javier, Residence Fellow at Lennox and Addington House.

Loans, bursaries and student debts

As of 2015, Ontario is the province with the highest post-secondary tuition rate in Canada.

The average student pays CA$6,000 per year to get a post-secondary education in Ontario. However, as of Oct. 1st, 2016, the general minimum wage job is $11.40 per hour, while the student minimum wage is only $10.70. With that being said, if a student were to work 10 hours per week for a whole year, they could earn around $5,928; which is not enough to cover meals, housing, nor pay for a whole year of education.

Richardson said that earning a minimum wage through one part-time job does not give students the opportunity to fulfill their daily and weekly expenses, while they are also paying for their education.

“There should be more opportunities for students on campus to work in positions where they could earn slightly above minimum wage," said Noah Richardson.

“I still very much rely on scholarships and loans to pay for school,” he said.

Richardson receives federal and provincial loans. He has kept his entrance scholarship from P.E.I. of $3,000 for the past three years, and each winter semester he applies for Carleton bursaries.

The Canadian government, led by Justin Trudeau, proposed to exempt graduates from repaying their student loans. “The government just passed a law so you don’t have to pay back your student loans until you are making $25,000 a year, which I think it will be really helpful,” said Richardson.

The impact of the Consumer Price Index in minimum-wage workers

Until 2015, the last minimum wage adjustment resulted in the decline of purchasing power for minimum wage workers, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by seven percent. Currently, the CPI has increased for many basic needs, which includes food, transportation and personal care and health. This means that inflation rates are affecting minimum-wage workers since they spend higher portions of their income in basic needs.

Carlos Velázquez, a third-year Carleton University student, has faced difficulties due to the CPI increase. Last year, Velázquez worked two jobs so he could afford to pay for groceries and housing. Velázquez had little money left over for outings with friends.

Velázquez worked as a receptionist at the Residence Commons Desk and as a cashier at Abstentions. On top of all of this, Velázquez was enrolled in six courses per semester, which resulted in a decline in his GPA.

“Unfortunately my GPA dropped, so this year I’m trying to focus less on work and more on school by only working 20 hours a week,” he said.

Part-time jobs at Carleton University

Carleton University offers a variety of job opportunity for students. For example, the Carleton University Student’s Association (CUSA) employs over 200 undergraduates, whether that’s within their services centers, their offices or in their businesses.

Most of the part-time staff at Carleton are unionized. Under their collective agreement, “part-time staff cannot work more than 25 hours per week… students can work more hours one week, and less another, as long as the maximum hours they have within a pay period do not exceed 50 hours,” said CUSA VP Internal, Lauren Konarowski.

“Jobs at the beginning of the school year or semester get an influx in applications… rather than during an exam period, as students have other priorities at that time,” added Konarowski.

Carleton University also offers other job opportunities through Carleton Housing Residence Life Services.

Natalie Allan, the Assistance Director of Residence Life Services, said that last year they received over 350 applications for the Residence Fellow position.

“We are trying to amp up even more. Our goal this year is to have 400 applications for the position,” Allan said.

“I usually stay up until ungodly hours just to finish an assignment, and next I have work,” said Princess Javier.

Jacob Symington, a business student at Carleton University, said that Carleton should offer more part-time job opportunities to students so that they can learn how to manage their time and earn cash as well as work experience.

“I wish Carleton gave business students the opportunity to gain experience in any aspect early in their education rather than waiting until the third or fourth year,” Symington said.

When talking about the opportunities on campus, Richardson said, “there should be more opportunities for students on campus to work in positions where they could earn slightly above minimum wage; otherwise, we will find students ‘burning’ themselves out to try to achieve their economic needs.”

"I'm a little bit of a work-obsessive... I'm often running from one commitment to the next, either an academic commitment or an extra-curricular or a work commitment," said Noah Richardson.

Home for the Holidays or books for school

According to Statistics Canada, cities like Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Quebec are some of the few places in Canada where gross income earned through a full-time wage job would put the citizen above the Market Basket Measure (MBM). However, only 41 percent of most minimum wage earners work full-time.

Richardson expressed that in a busy world, it is a challenge to be a student: “It is challenging to be a student and to participate in all sort of things, [like] clubs and buy[ing] equipment for journalism courses and textbooks...”

Students earning a minimum wage income through a part-time job in Canada have barely enough money to cover their basic standards of living which include: "food, shelter, transportation and other goods like footwear and clothing," according to the Statistics Canada on the MBM.

On top of the basic standards of living, post-secondary students have to purchase textbooks and in Richardson's case, equipment for journalism courses. However, a minimum wage job is insufficient for students to pay for their education, basic needs and on top of that, a plane ticket to go home for the Holidays.

“... Also, factoring in when you are out of [the] province and traveling home, plane tickets are not a cheap thing for sure,” Richardson said.

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Sissi De Flaviis
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