Dear fellow Vincentians:
The parable of the labourers in the vineyard is certainly one that raises some issues which would be very much part of today`s world. Can you imagine how many of us would react if we worked hard all day for our wages and then saw our employer hire others to come in an hour or so before the work day ended and paid them just as much as we had earned for a full day of work. How would you react…anger, frustration, and confusion? How unfair to you that these others got paid the same amount as you and yet they only worked an hour or two.
How many would of us would be pleased that these newly hired people who could find no work, ended getting a very fair and just reward for their own frustration, disappointment and failure to find work.
I believe this parable has a very modern and relevant comparison to an issue occurring in Ontario and other areas of Canada. That would be the issue of a rather large increase in the minimum wage, not to mention a pilot project which will give people a basic guaranteed income, whether they work or not. How appalling. How unfair. I have also heard from workers that if the minimum wage is raised then they must certainly deserve a similar raise.
Let`s hear from the landowner in this parable and what he said to those disgruntled workers. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage. Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous. So the last will be first and the first will be last.”
Yes, we do hear from small and large businesses that the increase in the minimum wage will mean lost jobs, less hours or higher prices for their products. While this may well happen in some cases, I believe the overall impact of paying a higher wage has many benefits when we look at this issue from a view that is not merely financial or business related. Let`s first consider the effect this increase can have on those living on a wage below current poverty levels. Consider a family that has two members working at a minimum wage of $11 for 30 hours a week. If they have their wages increased by $3 an hour this would mean an extra $180-200.00 a week for this family. This extra may actually allow them to buy more nutritious food for their family or perhaps allow their children to enjoy activities such as dance, music or sports. Maybe even save a little for future expenses. What does this increase mean to the self-esteem and dignity of the person? Does it not give them the ability to be able to participate more fully in the community in which they live. Perhaps they have been avoiding the expense of proper dental care for their family or even some medical expenses not covered by government.
The basic income guarantee project (BIG) goes even further by actually providing fellow citizens with extra money that is given with no strings attached. There is ample proof from various sources that a BIG can lead to a healthier lifestyle meaning less trips to the doctor and less expense on our health care system. People are also able to further their education leading to better paid and more secure employment, meaning more income for the government via taxation. Once again, we must also consider the positive effect a BIG can have in restoring a sense of basic human dignity to all.