More On The Salvation Army’s Employee Relations (Or: Working For The Man)

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Image: Picket fence and bell-tower built by ‘Work for the Dole’ people for the Salvation Army in Australia (Source: Salvation Army)

The Australian royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse will not be looking into the child slave labour aspect of the old Salvation Army Children’s Homes (see previous posting). The Salvation Army was a major beneficiary of the “Work for the Dole’ scheme in Australia by the long-term (i.e., 6 months) unemployed.

The government described the scheme as “It is seen as a mutual obligation fulfillment. If you receive the taxpayers’ money then you owe something back and you should make some input back into the community. This may mean volunteering a day for a not-for-profit organisation like the Salvation Army.”

The responsible minister at the time was Tony Abbott, who remarked that “The Salvation Army has been a bit nervous about work-for-the-dole. But given the changes that the government has made that they’ve now entered in – and they’ll be running several thousand work-for-the-dole places in the next 18 months.

One of the Salvation Army’s descriptions of its Work for the Dole scheme workers in its Bendigo thrift shop reads: “Activity Description: The participants will learn retails skills under direct supervision, in a supportive team work environment. The activity has a key focus on building a strong work ethic in staff, communication and the development of social interaction. The participants newly acquired skills will enable them to apply for suitable retail positions with the confidence that they have the qualities and skill level required by employers to fill their vacancies.”

Here are some comments and claims from the web by people who worked for the Salvation Army under Work for the Dole and similar schemes:

  • “I used to do work for the dole for the Salvos. I was told to keep quiet about my sexuality.”
  • “I was sent to the salvos 3yrs ago to do work for the dole they told me to go elsewhere as I didn’t suit their ideals. I went to lifeline they were so nice. (From another gay worker).”
  • “In a fit of petulance unbecoming a charitable organization, they have even threatened to close soup kitchens in New York City rather than abide by local non-discrimination laws.”
  • “One of the worst employers I have ever worked in.”
  • “This “Rehabilitation Center” takes people looking for help and puts them to work in their thrift store operation for no pay, except the roof over their head, which leaks (they require clients to pay for their meals with food stamps, and they must pay for every meal whether they eat it or not.”
  • “Until last year many were not even paid minimum wage and we are talking long timers.”
  • “The employees are treated as poorly as one will ever see and if they the coercion they perform on any employee who asks questions is unconscionable.”
  • “AND they treat their employees badly, like they are slaves.”
  • “I am talking about things that if people where aware of their preaching and hiring practices they might reconsider donating.”
    ”I am currently at the Salvation Army A.R.C. in Syracuse, NY. I have been required to work 40 hours every week. When I am sick I must make that time up on the weekend.”
  • “The Salvation Army berates all of their employees and talks down to them. They do not properly train any employees either.”
  • “No, I would not recommend this company to a friend.”

Recently, Salvation Army employees in Ottawa’s Booth Center, in Canada, went on strike for a living wage. Their pay was significantly less than the Salvation Army’s own estimate of the poverty level. One worker, “Rob”, claimed that he is making a little over $14 an hour and is aware that his counterpart at other shelters in the city are making $17 to $18 an hour.

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Image: Workers picketing the Salvation Army center in Ottawa, Canada

(During the past year, the Salvation Army in Canada realized an excess of revenue over expenses of $54 million. As of March 31, 2013, the Army’s total assets were $1.54 billion. In 2012, there were 44 non-officer employees whose total employment income for tax purposes was above $100,000. In 2012, the 44 non-officer staff whose salaries were over $100,000 was in the range $100,608 to $259,720 with an average of $136,747).

In the U.S and Canada, this Christmas the “red kettle” fundraising campaign suffered from adverse publicity on its attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, and its employment policies. Takings fell by 22% in Ontario, 24% in Portland, 21% in San Bernardino, and 14% in New Hampshire.

Australian trade unions should take note of the developments in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. with regards to the Salvation Army’s employment policies, especially if the new government follows the lead of Britain’s conservative government in introducing something along the lines of “Workfare”.

[Postscript: The Chief Commissioner of the Royal Commission, Peter McClellan, continues to refuse permission for the author to give evidence, or present a submission, at the up-coming hearings on abuses at the Salvation Army’s Indooroopilly Boys’ Home (“Alkira”) where the author once lived. The Salvation Army has been given such permission.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Salvation Army abuses in New Zealand Children’s Homes

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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