Pillar aligns to decent work principles and calls our network to action

The social impact sector has identified long-standing gaps in worker retention, equitable compensation, talent acquisition, recruitment and addressing employment precarity. The reality is that with limited resources, it can be challenging to commit dedicated time, money and energy to this work, but it’s critical to the sustainability of our organizations, our colleagues and the people we serve. Pillar is currently working with the Workplace Planning and Development Board Elgin Middlesex Oxford on data collected in the recent EmployerOne survey and we can share now that these issues are being felt locally and urgently.

Over the past several years, there has been a growing call in the nonprofit and broader social impact sector to centre decent work for both our colleagues and for all workers. Decent work is also increasingly becoming an imperative to many funders because more and more the philanthropic sector is recognizing that the future of work is flexible, and it is also decent. Other sector organizations in the province like Ontario Nonprofit Network and Foodshare Toronto have been leading this work and we’re grateful for their leadership that has inspired much of our own work. 

Today we’re sharing important milestones on our journey to align to decent work principles. We hope our work will inspire other impact sector leaders to consider how they can adapt these principles for their organizations, and how we all can play a part in advocating for decent work both within our organizations and for all those experiencing precarious employment. 

So, what do we mean when we say decent work?  According to the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives, and involves four pillars: standards and rights at work, employment creation, enterprise development and social protection and social dialogue.

Pillar’s commitment to decent work has been accelerated by our strategic plan, by our drive to be radically accountable, and by our commitment to the sustainable development goals, especially SDG 8.

One of the bold goals of our strategic plan is to re-work the economic system towards one that upholds decent work and is inclusive for all, but decent work connects across all of the three areas of our strategic plan – recovery, change and equity in action.

Decent work for the social impact sector enables recovery in action: rebuilding the sector into something better to be part of future economy; it connects to change in action: enabling a just transition; and to equity in action: helping to elevate opportunities for historically marginalized folks in a sector that is largely led by those who identify as women. 

Being radically accountable to our colleagues is another reason why decent work is critical. We can’t advocate for the better treatment of others across any dimension if we’re not starting within our own walls. It’s a moral responsibility and also a business imperative to attract and retain the best champions to help us carry out our missions. 

With the launch of our SDG Cities program last year, Pillar has also been identifying opportunities to align to the sustainable development goals. SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth, calls us to: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” Our new decent work policies help us align specifically to target 8.5: full employment and decent work with equal pay

Over the past year, our all women led leadership team have made several changes to help us align to decent work principles starting with developing Pillar’s Pay Principles. Our pay principles document outlines our commitments to fair and equitable pay, pay range transparency, equitable and fair recruitment and job sustainability. And we’ve implemented new policies and procedures to ensure we are carrying out these principles. 

First, we’ve created transparent pay bands for all of our roles and now share the salary on all of our external job postings. We are also moving in the direction to require this for all jobs we post on our website. We share our pay ranges with colleagues and on external job postings, recognizing that pay transparency is an act towards more equity for historically marginalized and equity-deserving people at work.

At Pillar, we believe in equal pay for equal work and therefore we won’t negotiate compensation so that there is no leveraging of power, social and organizational position, or privilege, including proximity to whiteness, to influence and secure an increase in pay or differential perks or working terms and conditions. 

We’re also proud to be now certified as a living wage employer for all roles at Pillar, including for any student or internship roles. We will not be engaging in unpaid internships and won’t have 2-tier salary schedules where student wages are lower with less job security.

We’ve committed to a 1:3 salary ratio meaning the top earner won’t make more than 3 times the lowest earner, which we believe may be a first of its kind commitment locally. This commitment means that the bottom must be brought up if the top should increase. We acknowledge that for some grassroots and smaller nonprofits, that this gap may be smaller. For us, this isn’t about raising the ceiling but raising the floor. The nonprofit sector has the potential to be a catalyst to centre decent work, beginning with not contributing to the ever-growing income gap.

We’re excited about how our pay principles have guided our recruitment practices, influenced by Paul Taylor and Foodshare Toronto. We aim to take an anti-oppression and decolonized approach to recruitment and selection.

We’ll now be compensating candidates who advance to an interview and are required to prepare additional materials or gather research. We’ll also be providing a one-week paid grace period for all new employees to ease into their role, a measure for psychological health and safety right from the beginning of a colleague’s journey with us.

We’ve also made important title changes for our organization that helps elevate leadership of women in the impact sector and addresses a gender gap in naming of female senior leaders. Our Executive Director, Mojdeh Cox will now be Pillar’s President and CEO, and our Directors will now be Vice-Presidents of Pillar Nonprofit Network. 

As an organization, we feel this is an important shift for female senior leaders both because we’re at a time when women’s roles in the sector have been deemed unequally essential and because we know that despite similar efforts women today will never see gender parity within their lifetimes. 

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to share our progress and learning from our network as well on this journey. 

For more information on implementing decent work in your organization, please check out these resources from our friends at Ontario Nonprofit Network. Lastly, please remember that how you vote directly impacts whether our elected officials make decent work a priority. The pandemic has only amplified precarious employment and revealed just how much we rely on essential workers who aren’t adequately remunerated or protected, so get engaged, hold our politicians to account and get out and vote on June 2.

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