Parishes urged to champion justice for workers

The Anglican
 on January 1, 2022

The Bible calls us to justice for those who are most vulnerable, including vulnerable workers in our society. After God’s people were brought out of slavery into freedom, they were reminded to treat their hired labourers – including “sojourners in the land” – with fairness and dignity (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Likewise, Paul’s letter to Timothy repeats the adages “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” and “The labourer deserves to be paid” (1 Timothy 5:18).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that many workers in essential workplaces – health care and long-term care facilities, manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, farms, food processing industries and grocery stores – are precariously employed.  Precarious workers are those who are not only low-paid but whose employment is also characterized by uncertain hours and a lack of workplace benefits and protections. For instance, workers who make less than $33,000 per year are also those least likely to have paid sick days. Part-time workers not only are frequently excluded from workplace benefit programs, but face uncertainty about their hours of work from week to week, making it difficult to plan their lives, arrange for childcare, or accept other employment to be able to make enough income to meet their needs. 

Precarious work has a harmful effect on the physical, mental and emotional health of workers and their families, with repercussions felt in the wider community. During the pandemic, we have seen many workplaces become hubs of COVID-19 transmission. When the employment laws allow employers to hire people at sub-poverty wages and in dangerous working conditions without adequate protection, low-income and precarious workers pay for this with their health – and even with their lives. 

Low-wage workers who lack employment benefits are also overwhelmingly likely to be women, members of racialized groups, newcomers, migrant or undocumented workers. Decent work is therefore not just a matter of economic justice, but a matter of gender and racial justice as well. 

Accordingly, this year the Social Justice & Advocacy Committee, with the support of the College of Bishops, has put forward a motion calling on the provincial government to support Ontario’s most vulnerable workers by passing legislation to implement the following measures:

Ten days of employer-paid sick leave per year for all workers, without requiring workers to submit doctor’s notes, with an additional 14 days’ sick leave during public health emergencies.

Require employers to give workers a minimum number of hours per week (based on the job) and to give reasonable advance notice of work schedules.

Require employers to provide equal pay and benefits to all workers doing the same work, whether they are part-time, temporary or contract workers, and regardless of immigration status.

A backgrounder supporting the motion, which parishes can download and use as a bulletin insert, has been prepared by the Social Justice & Advocacy Committee. It can be found on the diocesan website at That same page includes links to further reading on the issues, ideas on actions parishes can take, and tips for presenting the motion.

This year’s motion is timely as the pandemic has made us all more aware of the challenges faced by many essential workers in our communities. It’s time to translate our appreciation for those workers who keep us fed, clothed and cared for into giving them working conditions and benefits that treat them with dignity and allow them to stay healthy as well. 

Pam Frache, an organizer with the Worker’s Action Centre who led a workshop at our recent Outreach & Advocacy Conference, reminded us that “when we don’t protect the workplace, we ourselves are not protected. We have to protect each other.” This should be of concern to all in society, but especially to us, as those called by Christ to love our neighbours as ourselves. 

The Rev. Canon Andrea Budgey, chair of the diocese’s Poverty Reduction subcommittee, puts it this way: “As Irenaeus famously expressed it, ‘The glory of God is the living human being, and human life is the vision of God.’ We live in an economy built on workers’ fear, on precarious and inequitable work conditions, and we’ve become so accustomed to it that we can forget what an affront that is to the divine purpose. When we advocate for justice and dignity for workers, we are re-aligning ourselves with God’s desire for us.”

While we acknowledge that some members of our parishes may not agree with the motion as presented, there is still merit in raising and discussing these issues within the parish, as we seek to bear witness to what loving our neighbour looks like in practice. Moreover, no parish is required to present the motion, and any parish can agree to change the wording of the motion if this is the will of its vestry. All we ask is that any alterations be communicated to Elin Goulden, Social Justice & Advocacy Consultant, at [email protected]. 


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