Sixty unionized workers at the Salvation Army Booth Centre went on strike at 3:00 pm today.
The Booth Centre provides emergency shelter and food to homeless men in Ottawa.
PSAC Local 73100 members are demanding a wage increase which would bring them up to parity with their counterparts at the Shepherds of Good Hope and the Union Mission. The difference in pay is about $2.50 to $5 per hour.
Frankly, I was shocked a couple of years ago to discover how poorly paid the front line workers at the Shepherds were, and I’m absolutely appalled to hear that the Salvation Army workers earn significantly less.
Some workers at the Booth Centre earn as little as $11.50 per hour, while the highest paid social worker makes just $18 per hour.
There are those who believe people who do this kind of work should do so out of the kindness of their hearts. This, incidentally, is the same argument that was used to keep nurses underpaid for so many years. Maybe “the kindness of their hearts” is what motivates people to work with the downtrodden, the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless – but they should still be adequately compensated for that work! Otherwise what are we saying? If your work is worth doing, you should do it for free?
Wages are how we show respect for the value of people’s work in this society. By paying these workers such an inadequate and insulting salary, we’re saying a great deal about how little value we place on them, and on the people they serve.