Local non-profit sports clubs grapple with minimum wage hike

MinimumWageCapUCoaches

Capital United coaches. File photo.

By Martin Boyce

Many Ottawa sport organizations say they’re forced to weigh their options and limit costs after the hike made to Ontario’s minimum wage on Jan. 1.

Going from $11.60 per hour to $14 with the turn of the new year, local clubs have had varying responses to the increase, but each interviewed by the Ottawa Sportspage highlighted the future dependence on volunteers and likely increase in program fees to compensate.

The Nepean Hotspurs Soccer Club is one of the organizations grappling with the increased cost but says, because it’s early in the year, the effects are still unknown.

“I think it’s hard to say at this point,” signals general manager Kari Ross, of the impact on her club. “But it will really show itself at the end of the fiscal year.”

She says the club’s primary response to the increase will likely involve changes to current staff and recreational coaches’ pay, increases to registration fees as well as limiting the amount of purchases, such as equipment, the club makes throughout the year.

“We purchase a lot through the local stores,” she notes. “The fact that their minimum wages are going up does affect the cost for our club.”

The organization only employs a few minimum-wage workers as part-time staff and as summer coaches but will still have to re-evaluate how it operates and budget accordingly for the year.

While, like most sport organizations, the Hotspurs already rely heavily on volunteers, Ross says turning even more toward volunteers, rather than paid staff, will help keep fees lower for the players.

FC Capital United Soccer Club, which employs between seven to 10 youth and junior coaches at minimum wage, says it finds itself in a similar situation post wage hike.

Raz El-Asmar, the club’s founder and Technical Director of Youth Development, says FC Capital United is preparing to raise competitive program fees in order to compensate.

Although fees were likely to rise anyway, he says the wage hike has added some urgency.
The Ottawa National Diving Club, however, finds itself in a different predicament than the soccer clubs.

“I have always paid way over the minimum wage and have not lost any staff to retail because of it,” notes ONDC Founder Kathleen Murphy, who says she pays her staff – mostly lifeguards – 15 dollars per hour. “Now, it’s just slightly over and not as enticing.”

She says the Board of Directors are taking into account whether other organizations in similar situations are raising wages above the $15 mark and determining an appropriate response for the ONDC.

“If so, many of our positions are paid well because they are a coach and lifeguard. We will need to look at the impact in that light,” she says, also noting the club has increased athlete-coach ratio from 5:1 to 6:1 in order to compensate.

Much like the Nepean Hotspurs and FC Capital United, Murphy stresses the emphasis ONDC will have to put on recruiting volunteers in the future.

“The severity was huge for not-for-profit organizations and sporting organizations – our dependence on volunteerism will increase substantially,” she underlines. “It is already difficult for parents to manage time and now we will need more of it.”

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