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When Dev Ramsawakh's job title was updated from associate producer to producer to more accurately reflect the responsibilities of the role, they were surprised that the revised contract still offered the same pay.
"I inquired as to the rates they usually pay producers and ended up defending my question by bringing up the technical and organizational skills I brought to the table and reminded them that there was work I was doing that would be twice the rate if contracted out to others," said Ramsawakh, a 28-year-old Toronto-based audio producer.
Ramsawakh, who uses they/them pronouns, was already wary about potential pay discrepancies after noticing the organization's permanent staff was comprised of predominantly white employees, while contracted roles had mostly been filled recently by racialized employees.
"It was very important to me that my labour wasn't being exploited by 1/8permanent staff 3/8 with stability. I knew I had leverage because they wanted this to be a recurring project and, without me, a new producer would have to learn how to do it all over again because I handled all the tech."
After some negotiation, Ramsawakh's pay went from $28 an hour to $30 an hour, with an addendum to pay $50 an hour for any sound engineering work.
Currently, half of Canadian workers polled are feeling underpaid, according to a recent survey from global staffing firm Robert Half. Among millennials, 56 per cent say they're being shortchanged when it comes to their income.
As a result, one-in-five employees said they'd consider quitting if they don't get a raise by the end of the year. That number is even higher for millennials (28 per cent) and generation Z (35 per cent).
When it comes to millennial and gen Z employees, Ramsawakh noted that these generations are sometimes brought on for "entry-level" roles that require more advanced responsibilities.
"Suddenly, you are performing tasks or becoming responsible for projects that fall under much higher roles, but you're still being paid the same," they said.
"In fact, you may be extremely skilled, but you'll still be placed in a position with no decision-making power.
Young people are also occasionally brought on for contracts that just fall short of the length of time that would entitle them to benefits or sick pay that permanent, and often older, employees receive, Ramsawakh added.
Another reason that employees are feeling underpaid may be pandemic-related. In the pandemic's early stages, many organizations suspended their annual increases and laid off employees.
For the employees who remained, the additional workload has left many feeling under compensated, said Mike Shekhtman, regional vice president at Robert Half for British Columbia and Manitoba.
Despite this dissatisfaction, walking away without asking for a raise first is a bad idea, Shekhtman said.
"It's such an important conversation to have and to exhaust before exploring opportunities out in the market because a lot of times, especially in today's economic climate with renewed business confidence, we're seeing companies become a little bit more flexible and savvy when it comes to retention," Shekhtman said.
"If it's just about the money, there's a possibility that a company will increase the salary if there's a business case to be had."
Jette Stubbs, a career coach at the Happy Career Formula in Toronto, said employees preparing to ask for a raise have a few options when it comes to starting a salary conversation.
One strategy is to justify a pay increase by bringing hard numbers to the table. You can do this by calculating the revenue you help your company earn, or by adding up the number of clients you help the company gain or keep, Stubbs said.
"Then build a business case by the numbers," she said.
If you've taken on the workload of any previous employees, another approach is to explain that you've saved the company money in additional labour costs, Stubbs said.
Lastly, she suggested looking up salaries for similar jobs within the same cities, industries and companies of the same size to back up your negotiation efforts.
"I've also found it's helpful to ask people who have left similar roles recently because they are discussing an old salary that they may not be as protective about sharing," she said.
Ramsawakh advises young people to be well-researched and steady when asking for a raise.
"When I approached my employer with the question about rates, I already had outlined for myself what my role was supposed to entail, what it does, and what a reasonable rate would be considered," they said.
"If you know your worth, it's easier to not budge. If you go in with no idea, you can find yourself settling for a number and finding out later that you undersold yourself."