By Fr. Paul Hansen, C.Ss.R.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) wants to outsource the servicing and cleaning workers. The wage would be $11.00 per hour and no benefits (currently workers receive $22.00 per hour with benefits). The workers asked me to give a deputation to the Commission at a meeting with Toronto City Councillors to lead to a defeat of this motion. We were not successful. Following is my deputation.
Good afternoon and thank you for accepting my desire to appear before you this afternoon.
I am a Catholic Priest, a member of a Catholic Religious Order that works for the marginal and the most abandoned in the area of Justice and Human Rights.
I am here today to offer our voice in support of the workers servicing and cleaning our TTC buses.
Mr. Bob Kinnear, President of A.T.U. 113 and Mr. John Cartwright, President – Toronto and York Region Labour Council have spoken to you of the mechanics of the question under discussion. I offer a few words about the morality of the issue.
In our daily worship as we begin our day we recite the following:
“The gifts of the earth and the WORK OF HUMAN HANDS, yes the work of human hands will become for us the Body and the Blood of the Lord.” or simply stated – Food for the journey to the fullness of life – human life.
When I reflect on the Labour Day statements of our Catholic bishops over the years and the Encyclicals of our recent Popes, I note that work and the human person are intimately linked – the dignity of the person.
You have, this afternoon, led the beginnings of your discussion concerning the 2013 TTC budget. A budget is not simply a financial statement, but rather a moral document. A budget expresses your sense of what it means to be human – what it means to belong to a society concerned about the human social good. Work is not merely a job to make money – as necessary as money is to live and participate in a modern society – rather work is to be seen as a way for the human to express talent, creativity, and participation in the common good. In other words, work must always be understood within the context of the human person. The human must never be viewed as a commodity to be used and abused in any context especially at a job site. Work is a fundamental dimension of our existence here on the earth. Work must serve to realize our humanity, to fulfill our calling to be a human person.
In other words, our moral teaching is about the heartfelt defense of the inalienable dignity of work.
A just wage therefore is the legitimate fruit of work. Our moral teachings remind us that to withhold a just wage can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs of and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.
“Remuneration for work should guarantee all of us the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for each one of us and our families on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business and the common good.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Work))
Poverty jobs and poverty wages almost always wound their victims’ dignity and threatens the equilibrium of the workers lives. Besides the harm done to the worker personally, it also entails many risks for the workers’ family.
Now to a practical application and conclusion –
As mentioned, all budgets are moral statements. They express our convictions and view of the human, our society and the common good.
When we outsource jobs to the lowest bidder and make work poverty jobs, we not only add to the already growing numbers of the working poor – the Metcalfe Foundation indicates numbers in the range of 70,000 living among us here in Toronto – but we remove hope and dignity from persons and their families, their lives and the common good. Many of our fellow citizens in these positions of work are already the most vulnerable in our society. A society is deemed to be human to the degree that it cares for its least fortunate and wounded. Many occupying such jobs are new immigrants and are taken advantage of.
The creation of poverty jobs and the working poor also diminishes society at large, adds to family break up, violence, and a great call on other social services provided by and financed by our local governments in the field of housing, health care and food to name but three.
Commissioners, I ask you not to outsource work, creating poverty jobs for the already less fortunate among us. I call on you to recognize your own dignity, your own humanity and the dignity and the humanity of the less fortunate as you come to your decision.
I thank you for your attention.