CFN – To some, the faith-based institution known as the Salvation Army of Canada is a provider of good food and a warm bed. They make available essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities. A little known fact about the Salvation Army is that it is actually the largest non-governmental provider of social services in Canada.
As well it may come as a shock to many that the charity had $1.5 billion dollars in assets as well as a $35.3 million dollar operating surplus for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Those who are “lucky” enough to have moved up in the ranks of the institution also make six figure salaries. The average annual salary of the top 39 professionals is $139, 625 and the highest paid salary within the organization here in Canada is $239,081. These figures are well above what the average front line worker who provides the essential services; between $23,500 and $30,000 annually.
On January 6th 2012, about 60 full-time and part-time workers who are employed at the Salvation Army’s Ottawa Sally Ann booth centre located in the Byward Market went on strike. They claim that the Salvation Army of Canada underpays them for similar work for which employees at a neighbouring shelter (The Sherpherds of Good Hope) are being paid $2-5 dollars more per hour on average.
ACORN Canada, a renowned organization and advocacy group which represents low-income and middle class families has set the living wage in Ottawa at $13.50 an hour. Anyone who makes under this living wage may end up having to rely on food banks as well as other essential services just to survive. Given this information, it is alarming to find out that the average wage of a housekeeper at the Booth Centre was $11.31 per hour and that of a maintenance worker was $12.63. Even those who worked the front line position were being underpaid compared to those that do the same job at the neighbouring shelter as the following graph provided by the Public Service Alliance of Canada:
The public relations guru of the Salvation Army here in Ottawa; Michael Maidment was the subject of a valentine’s day protest which saw a crowd of about 100 people march in solidarity with the striking workers to city hall. The crowd claimed that Mr. Maidment had lost his heart, fuelled by a decision he made as chair of the Poverty Issues Advisory Committee.
As chair he denied the striking workers the right to speak at a committee meeting. They feel that his position as chair of PIAC and as public relations guru for the Salvation Army is a conflict of interest. As well they feel he is “making stuff up” and fabricating lies about the situation at the Booth Centre as one of the union’s youtube videos boldly states explicitly using portions of an interview he did with CBC radio where he is defending the poverty wages . Even Cupid was present during the protest with intentions to deliver a plush valentine’s day card and remind him to have a heart for the underpaid employees at the booth centre.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada which represents the 60 full-time and part-time striking employees has even confirmed that both shelters receive the same amount of funding from the Government of Ontario and the City of Ottawa, so such an unjustified discrepancy in wages is unacceptable. The Salvation Army can afford to pay their employees a few dollars more, especially when they are sitting on an operating surplus in the millions and have over a billion dollars in assets.
While the shelter remains open to those in need, the equally professional and compassionate care administered by the striking workers is missing. As long as the Sally Ann continues to pay its employees “poverty wages” those who will suffer the most are the men, women and children who have grown reliant on the booth centre. The sooner the Salvation Army acknowledges its underpaying staff and cuts a fair deal with the striking workers, the sooner Ottawa’s most vulnerable can once again receive the care and assistance they deserve.
Born and raised in Cornwall Ontario, Stéphane is a social activist and political science student at the University of Ottawa who is avidly passionate about politics, policy-making, as well as getting youth involved in the democratic process.
Stéphane also loves to observe and explore his surroundings, take part in rational discussion, learn new things, write, and meet new people.
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