In September 2016, Vancouver’s City Council committed the City of Vancouver to becoming a Living Wage Employer and approved an aggressive time line for implementation. As a Living Wage Employer, the City must pay direct and in-scope contracted services employees a living wage calculated as $20.62 in 2017 by the Living Wage for Families Campaign (LWFC). A cross-functional team, led by Supply Chain Management (SCM) and sponsored by the Deputy City Manager, worked to implement the policy over the course of 8 months. While the short timeframe was a challenge, and required concentrated staff effort, the City recognized the value of acting quickly once the commitment was made in order to lead by example and begin to impact workers’ lives.

The cross-functional team, which, in addition to SCM, included representatives from Corporate Communications, Legal, Human Resources, the Project Management Office, Board of Parks and Recreation, and City business units, implemented a project plan that involved completing a number of steps for certification with LWFC. In addition, the City updated its web content and revised the Corporate Procurement Policy to include Living Wage requirements under the Sustainable Procurement section. At the same time, they revised Supply Chain procedures, RFX templates and contract documents.

There was also a strong communications component to the implementation. The communications specialist and cross functional team developed a Communications Plan, and subsequently rolled out staff, union, vendor, and public communications, including memos and broadcast messages to staff, one-on-one meetings with affected vendors, and distribution of a letter to all City of Vancouver vendors. Signage about the Living Wage commitment was created for use on construction sites, and the City developed a complaint process for workers or the public to flag concerns about non-compliance with the new policy. The project culminated in a media launch attended by the Mayor, representatives of Council, the LWFC, and the City’s Chief Procurement Officer.

The Outcome

On May 1st, 2017, the City of Vancouver became a certified Living Wage Employer. Starting on that date, all in-scope service contract bids included Living Wage policy requirements. Since roll-out two large existing contracts were extended and amended to include Living Wage Policy requirements.

The City attributes the successful implementation of their policy commitment to a number of factors. Some of the most important were the clear mandate from Council, the City Manager, and the Corporate Leadership Team, as well as the assignment of adequate resources to the project, including a project manager, whose role proved to be critical to the success of the work. In addition, the existence of the cross-departmental team, and particularly the inclusion of a communications specialist and dedicated legal support, was a major success factor. Having a clearly defined scope for the Living Wage policy (i.e. a single outcome of paying a Living Wage, vs. a broader social benefit mandate, which can be hard to scope and define) also helped bring focus and efficiency to the work. Finally, the project highlighted the importance of working with the Living Wage for Families Campaign as a community partner, as their staff were able to provide guidance on implementation, connect the project team with organizations that have gone through the certification journey, liaise with the Employer Committee to ensure positive outcomes, and offer practical solutions that were scalable to a large supply chain. In recognition of the value of the work, at the annual City Service staff recognition event, the City Manager awarded the Living Wage project team the 2017 Legacy Award – for leaving a lasting legacy through a significant body of work.

Source: The State of Sustainable Public Procurement in Canada, 2017

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