Patronizing drivel

Staff ~ The Telegram
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I just read an article prepared by the chairman of the St. John's Board of Trade entitled "Poverty and social justice: The business perspective," July 3. It concerned the recent 50-cent increase to the provincial minimum wage and its implications for social justice. In my view, never was so little said by so many words.

It appears to me there is something disingenuous in suggesting, on the one hand, a symbiotic relationship between business and labour characterized by common goals of social justice, while, on the other hand, cautioning us to temper our generosity to the weaker elements of society because "50 cents per hour per person has to be passed on to consumers for goods and services sold by a business."

Letter to the editor -

I just read an article prepared by the chairman of the St. John's Board of Trade entitled "Poverty and social justice: The business perspective," July 3. It concerned the recent 50-cent increase to the provincial minimum wage and its implications for social justice. In my view, never was so little said by so many words.

It appears to me there is something disingenuous in suggesting, on the one hand, a symbiotic relationship between business and labour characterized by common goals of social justice, while, on the other hand, cautioning us to temper our generosity to the weaker elements of society because "50 cents per hour per person has to be passed on to consumers for goods and services sold by a business."

The last time I looked, $10 per hour is substantially below national poverty standards. I'm not sure social justice can be purchased for $10 an hour and all the prescriptions you can fill.

Further, had the chairman suggested ways that business might not have to pass on this cost to the consumer, he might have captured my imagination.

Perhaps become more efficient, perhaps cut the dividends to the almighty shareholder, perhaps lower management bonuses, perhaps a lower margin of profit, perhaps a lot of things.

Passing the half-buck, literally so in this case, simply means that business is profit-neutral and even a tiny advance in social justice costs them nothing.

The chairman then goes on with a long list of lofty platitudes from the business playbook that we've heard many times before ... "because we have similar overarching goals for ourselves and our society, like giving everyone a chance to improve their lives; like spreading prosperity rather than risking it through imbalance; like achieving important collective goals."

All this for 10 bucks an hour!

I have never read such patronizing drivel, especially from a no doubt talented leader of our community. But the chairman needs to be told, so that he will not repeat this embarrassing effort.

I'm sure at the core he's a good man and will offer more creative and substantive ideas in the name of social justice as his term progresses.

Let's hope so.

Robert Rowe

St. John's

Organizations: St. John's Board of Trade

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • W
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    McRocket, you are crazy. You'll be very hungry on 250/mointh for grocery unless you plan on eating kraft dionner and drinking pop all month. A 2L of milk is just shy of 4 bucks.

  • Calvin
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    The thing is Robert, the shareholder and management of all businesses dont want a decrease in bonuses, profit margins and dividends. They want a steady increase or they feel they are not getting the bang for their buck, or half buck as you stated. Social justice and equality will not be bought with 50 cents or $5.00 because big and small business alike are in it for the profit, not the thought of making a difference to the social status of the poverty stricken souls of this or any country. I think raising the minimum wage is a sad solution for government to say, we tried to help the poor people, we really did, they just wont help themsleves. Social programs funded by the government and managed properly would do more for the population living below the poverty line than increased minimum wage ever will.

  • David
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Perhaps if the taxpayers were not bankrolling these so-called free-enterprisers with uncounted and unaccountable billions in grants, subsidies, cheap labour schemes, sweetheart rent deals and the like, there would be more money for social programmes. I put it to the Board of Trade; periodic hikes in the minimum wage or an end to taxpayer subsidies to business. Take your pick. By the way, I am a small business owner/operator.

  • McRocket
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    To Taxpayer: $1200/mth. is enough to live on. $450/mth. rent/util./cable/phone in apt. (shared). $250/mth. food. $100/mth. transportation (bus pass). $400/mth extras. There is plenty. Is that living it up? Nope. But it is getting by. And you show me another provincal capital where you can do that on minimum wage? It is called, after all, 'minimum' wage. And that is, imo, exactly what it provides.

  • Donna
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    McRocket from NL, please tell me where I can find an apt. that a family has to share that will cost only $450 per month with utilities, phone etc. included. That means the rent can't be shared with other tenants and has to be paid by one wage earner. So, it also most likely means the rent, utilities etc. could be as much as $900 monthly. How are an adult and two children supposed to travel about town on one $100 bus pass? Get real! There are families trying to live on minimum wage salaries. They're not all young singles with 3 or 4 sharing expenses.

  • Anon
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Its a very sad thing that milk costs more money than pepsi. 4 litres of soda costs less than 2 liters of milk. a box of kraft dinner costs less than an apple or orange. And the companies that make our food products only response to the growing obesity epidemic is to slap Light and Low-cal on still-unhealthy food products. Poor nutrition effects us all here in Canada as we all pay into the health care system. Subsidize.

  • Taxpayer
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Local businesses are known for paying low wages no matter what the job or the qualifications/experience expected. Their sense of social justice ends in the bottom line and what they can pocket for themselves and their shareholders. Anyone working for $10 an hour is bringing home approximately $300 per week/$1200 per month. Out of that money they have to pay their rent, food, light, phone, transportation, clothing, medical expenses - all of which are essential if you are out in the workforce. As far as I am concerned, if we as a society are so socially conscious, there should be help available for these workers whether it be with subsidized housing cost, a drug card, or whatever it takes to keep this person a productive member of society and allow him to keep his dignity rather than ending up on the social assistance roles of this province. The working person should be the one given the help with their every day living expenses. If you don't want to work, well fine, but don't expect to keep your hand out and not contribute to your own well being.

  • McRocket
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I live on between $225-250/mth. for food and I am 6'1 , 220 pounds. Now granted, I don't eat much meat (which is expensive), but I get plenty of protein. And I eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lots of whole grains and I only drink water. Any reasonably healthy adult that cannot eat enough food for $250/mth. is eating too much and/or is eating to many processed foods/drinks.

  • McRocket
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    To Donna: OBVIOUSLY I meant 'shared' as in one person sharing an apartment expenses with another person 50/50. As for trying to support an entire family on one minimum wage pay? That is not (I suspect) what it is designed for. Imo, anyone that would bring children into this world while only employed at minimum wage is pretty irresponsible. And I don't care what the sob story is. Responsible parents consider and cover EVERY realistic eventuality (including parental death or break-up) before having children. I suggest you contact the government to seek additional financial assistance.

  • Steve
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    There are a number of ways to look at this problem. As a small business owner myself there is definite impact on what I would call truly small businesses with only 3 or 4 employees. It becomes compounded with increases in payroll tax, CPP, EI and Workers Compensation Deductions all of which the employer has to pay. It most definitely impacts whether you hire someone for a full time or only a part time position. The vast majority of the truly - small business - owners do not have these imaginary bottomless pockets as many of you proclaim. The impact has even been felt in many of the larger retailers who now only hire as many part-time employees as they can get. It is truly a balancing act.

  • greg
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Well said Mr. Rowe. Their arguments don't stand up to scrutiny. Even this morning, the employers council cautioned that despite workers shortages in St. John's, increases to minimum wages won't help recruit or retain. Pathetic!