The owner of a bicycle shop in Halifax says business is good and he’s retaining and attracting staff a year after implementing a living wage policy at his business.
Andrew Feenstra is the owner of Cyclesmith on Agricola Street. He implemented the living wage policy in September 2021. The living wage at that time was $21.80/hour.
“It works and it’s better for everybody. We are retaining our best staff and attracting even better staff,” Feenstra told the Examiner on Thursday, during Living Wage Week. “Paying people a proper wage works.”
Feenstra has 36 staff at the shop, including about five employees who are part time and are paid the living wage. In 2020, Feenstra said he had 19 staff at the shop.
And business is good, too.
“We’re lucky. People continue to want to ride bikes,” Feenstra said. “We attract a lot of great staff and wages are one thing, but also a great place to work is another thing. That makes a difference. And having great staff means customers get great service. That gets passed along to the next customer and their friends, so the business continues to grow.”
In the months after he implemented the policy, Feenstra they had customers come to the shop because they heard the staff get a living wage.
“People came in and would definitely mention it,” Feenstra. “We’ve also had new customers who mentioned it as well.”
Feenstra said it was a calculated risk to create the living wage policy, and it does cost the business more money. He increased the staff’s wages in September when the new living wage rate was announced — the living wage in Halifax is now $23.50/hour. Feenstra said he’ll continue raising wages when each new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is released each year.
“The staff know that each year there will be a raise,” he said. “The cost of living isn’t going to go down. Their wages are directly related to that. They also feel confident they can pay their rent or mortgage.”
Cyclesmith wasn’t the only organization that implemented a living wage policy in 2021. Coverdale Courtwork Society started its policy in September 2021 as well. At that time, Ashley Avery, executive director at Coverdale, outlined some of the benefits of paying a living wage:
I think it helps attract people with an abundance of skill sets, which is really important. It’s obviously helpful in retaining employees and keeping people on the team. Coverdale is a community and what we’re trying to do is build our community and extend our community and what that means to us, in part, is not only taking care of the people who come to us, but taking care of our employees and making sure they can do this and get paid what they should be getting paid.
Adsum House for Women and Children, is a leader in living wage policies in Nova Scotia, started living wage policy in 2016.
Feenstra, meanwhile, said he’s had a few companies call him for advice and asking about the living wage policy.
“I’m not sure if they went ahead and did it or not,” Feenstra said. “A little bit of the press we created then was read by someone else and the word gets out there. Politicians definitely don’t talk about a living wage. They talk about minimum wage. Any media coverage it can get and raise awareness is a good thing.”
Feenstra said like many industries, the bike industry in North American faces labour shortages. Still, he said has resumes in his desk ready to go if he needs more for staff.
“It’s not just wages. There’s lifestyle and a lot of other pieces that go together to make a place where people want to work,” he said. “During interviews, almost everyone comments on our living wage policy.”
And one year later, Feenstra said his advice to other businesses looking to offer a living wage remains the same as it was in 2021: “Just do it.”
“If you can financially do it, it does pay off, it does work,” Feenstra said. “You do retain and get your best staff. It’s just the right thing to do. My staff are able to save money and live the way they want to live with the wage. It’s fantastic.”