What's with the change?

Minimum wage… ouch!

May 4, 2013

Currently I have three jobs and almost no money coming in. 

Not enough to cover rent. How did this happen?

It began back in Newcastle (Australia) when we took the short lease option because we planned to go to Canada for a working holiday. Working holiday? Surely that is a misnomer. We had hoped we could stay in the house for an extra month or so but the owner decided to sell. Very quickly our January departure became November and we rushed to get our work permits processed in time.

Not allowed to work with children nor as a stripper.
To work as a teacher in Canada not only requires sorting it all out with the school board of the province you wish to work in before you arrive but also a different type of work permit, requiring a very expensive medical and an extra six or so weeks, time we just didn’t have. “It’ll be nice to have a break from teaching,” I said breezily.

Oh, the naivety of a well-paying job!

My brother warned me– “You’ll get paid shit in Canada.” 

But he was forgetting the tips. Over a hundred dollars a night they said. Maybe it's true,
if you won the beauty contest at the open interviews for servers at the sports bars. If only I had pushed my boobs up to my chin.*

an hour of work
My first job here in Toronto was at a Lebanese restaurant, a much more upscale version of your late-night kebabs/shawarmas (depending where you’re from) but hardly a fine dining experience. I was lured with the cashier/server title, described as you get tips but a higher wage. ‘Higher’ meaning the minimum wage. I need to take heed of my Old Man’s advice more often: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. But I was so excited to be a server and serve I did, sans tips.

A friend got me onto an admin temp agency. It seems all those sad afternoons as a fourteen year old teaching myself to touch type paid off. To the tune of $12-13/hr. The work is great but sadly inconsistent- a couple of days here and there. In a dramatic panic when my week's earnings didn't cover my weekly transit card, I went back to that dark place, Craigslist and also canvassed supermarket job boards.

$10 = nearly four rides on the subway
After a taste of the admin high life, getting the job stocking shelves at the supermarket was a little depressing. Not because of the work or the shelf-packer status, but going back to $10.25. I actually don’t know if the work sucks because I haven’t started. In a timeline of slowness it has been: phone interview and online psycho-screening survey, in-person interview a week later (passed the psycho test), orientation two weeks later and now waiting for training. As for the third job with a catering company, the numerous reports of being enticed to the manager’s house when his fiance is away hasn’t really encouraged me to go and buy all the necessary uniform requirements.

$10 = a medium beer at the NBA
Why am I whinging about minimum wage? Why did I move to Canada’s biggest city then complain about the cost of living? Why am I asking then answering my own questions? The answer to the last one is ‘cause I’m in North America, and that’s how it’s done. The answer to the first is because I don’t think people know how rough they have it. Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America– cop that Chi-City!– so no doubt more expensive than other cities. Problem is, it doesn’t match the wage. Minimum wage is nearly half of what you would get in Sydney but rent is nowhere near close to half. And if you mention the wage, people will call themselves lucky not to have the American wage.

The harsh realities of running away from a career. You may address your sympathies to Peta Pan.


* I do actually have quite a bit of hospitality experience, embellished only slightly on my resume.