Since 1865, the Salvation Army has championed the downtrodden and saved countless lives. The beloved “Sally Ann” evokes universal respect for its good works, from funding hospitals, to providing the down-and-out with cheap clothing, a hot meal, a clean bed and a message of Hope for a Better Next Life.

Sally Ann is the largest social service network in Canada, after the Canadian government. No wonder it has been the charity of choice for so many!

Until now.

Donations to the Sally Ann have dwindled, and the Army is closing many doors on the destitute all over.

Sally Ann blames “the economy” but Sally’s birthplace, Victorian Whitechapel, wasnâe(TM)t rolling in dough, either. So whatâe(TM)s the problem?

The research is dismaying. The Salvation Army is a multinational organization. Its Canada-Bermuda division alone owns $1.13 billion in assets, $400 million in investments and $237 million in revenues exceeding its spending by $18 million.

Sally Ann even opened on the Nasdaq last summer — pictures and all — hardly the activity expected of a charity crying for cash.

Sally Ann doesn’t seem to be hurting, so why is its Sunset Lodge in Esquimalt, B.C. being privatized? The lodge is operated by the Salvation Army and funded by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The residents of Sunset Lodge suffer from dementia and other disabilities. Incontinence is common; violence, occasional. Caretaking is challenging, for the residents have limited mobility. The work is heavy, sometimes nauseating and dangerous. Workers must follow stringent sterilisation procedures, often using carcinogenic cleaning aids.

Nevertheless, the unionized workers (HEU, BCNU and HSA) loved their jobs and their residents. Many of them were single moms, needing those union wages — especially in pricey Victoria.

When the employees learned that the Lodge was $200,000 in debt, they immediately brainstormed and found $202,000 in savings. But Executive Director Blake Mooney claimed the debt was actually higher. Employees found more savings, $221,000, only to find the debt had magically climbed again.

Alas, Mooney was after the Unholy Grail: privatization. Employeesâe(TM) jobs were to be sacrificed on the altar of profit-making, never mind debt-reduction.

He told some of the employees they would be allowed to apply for their former jobs — at about half their present wages and no pensions — with Compass, a U.K.-based, for-profit multinational corporation that was to manage such support services as food service and housekeeping in the future.

Sunset Lodge dietary workers, for example, previously paid more than $17.00 an hour were told they’ll be earning $9.25 as Compass employees.

Hirees were also required to join IWA-1 3567, a union that enjoys no respect from the legitimate trade union movement, as it has been seen to negiotiate a race-to-the bottom deal for its members. Sunset Lodge workers were distraught, believing they had served the Army well. Sally Ann had received many donations from families, grateful for the tender care their loved ones received over the years.

Besides, paying workers poorly could not possibly improve care, and paupers could not afford courses or books to keep themselves current. Workers also wondered why Mooneyâe(TM)s job or salary was not cut.

Sunset employees approached the top Salvation Army brass with their concerns, begging them to retain management of the facility and revert to having its Majors onsite to do so.

The brass deferred to Mooney, who had once said to MLAs, “We need to focus more on letting the market drive the value of our health employees, rather than letting the collective agreements drive them…”

In effect, Sally Annâe(TM)s workers were “commodities”, subject to ruthless marketplace-driven economic idiocy. Although the workers had contracts guaranteeing decent wages, Premier Gordon Campbellâe(TM)s Bill 29 vapourized them and the unions at the lodge were busted.

No effective appeal was possible. Campbell appointed a CLAC member to the B.C. Labour Relations Board. CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada) is criticized by most trade unions for its reluctance to keep up standards for wages and benefits, and for its refusal to use labour’s traditional strengths to protect workers’ rights. Eventually, Sally Annâe(TM)s soul, its Lodge and its residents were transferred to Compass.

Army Divisional Commander Lt.-Col. Copple promised, “Any departing employee will be treated fairly and with respect.”

In reality, the employees were marched into the Chapel on June 10 and handed their termination papers.

Considering that the Salvation Army was the first organization of its day to practice gender equality, itâe(TM)s hard to fathom why todayâe(TM)s “soldiers” allowed these job eliminations and wage cuts to proceed.

Compass has powerful pull though, enough to convince B.C. Supreme Court Judge Linda Loo to issue an ex parte injunction stifling any criticism of Compass or its union of choice. Bans cannot quash speculation, however. And speculation is that the Salvation Army has become like every other bottom-line-feeding-frenzied corporation. Its critics believe that just because a quasi-charitable organization does good works, it is not entitled to treat employees unfairly.

They also are not surprised that Sally Annâe(TM)s donations are down.

In fact, many believe that donations would do more good if they were sent to labour halls to help the growing unemployed, hungry and homeless among the rank and file.