work&labour news&research

from the cirhr library

Ontario Public Service Leaders Sign a Solidarity Pact


"The bargaining agents representing the majority of Ontario government employees have joined forces to defend against employer contract concessions and protect public services."

OPSEU, April 16, 2014: “Ontario Public Service Leaders Sign a Solidarity Pact.”

AMAPCEO, OPSEU, PEGO, Apri 16, 2014: “SOLIDARITY PACT: Ontario public sector unions pledge to work together” [1 page, PDF]  

"Six bargaining agents representing 57,000 Ontario public servants working directly for the government of Ontario are joining together to fight off government demands for devastating cuts to members’ financial security and health and wellness benefits.”

"The unions today pledged their support for AMAPCEO, which is facing unprecedented demands for claw backs, concessions and cuts. The unions believe these demands contradict the recent declaration of the Premier who said “it would be a mistake to declare war on labour… we don’t need that kind of risky, radical approach.” 

AMAPCEO Media Release, April 16, 2014: “Unions Come Together to Fight Government Demands for Concessions.”    

Workplace Stress

A decade ago, when people were asked what mattered to them on the job, they cited relationships with colleagues, feeling respected, being able to contribute and grow — the touchy-feely part of working.”

"No longer."

"The 2014 Work Stress Survey by Harris, a Nielsen company, found that ‘low pay’ and commuting issues are workers’ biggest concerns. Those stresses slightly edged out ‘unreasonable workload’ as the top causes of employee worries. A similar survey last year by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found ‘inadequate staffing’ was the top stress agent."

"In short, workers are feeling short-changed on pay and overloaded in do-more-with-less workplaces with fewer colleagues to share the load."

The Toronto Star, April 16, 2014: “Low pay, rough commute, heavy workload top workplace stress list,” by Diane Stafford

Harris, A Nielson Company, April 9, 2014: “2014 Work Stress Survey” (9 pages, PDF)

Towers Watson & National Business Group on Health, January 2014: “The Business Value of a Healthy Workforce – United States: 2013/2014
Staying@WorkTM Survey Report” (40 pages, PDF)

Towers Watson, February 2014: “2013/2014 Staying@Work Report – Canada Summary” (8 pages, PDF)

Where are the Jobs Without People in Canada’s Labour Market?

Statistics Canada released their latest job vacancy data [on April 16, 2014], giving us the three-month average ending in January 2014. There were 6.7 unemployed workers for every job vacancy, higher than the past two Januaries. Counting un(der)employed workers gives us a ratio of 14.2 un(der)employed workers for every job vacancy.”

"That’s a lot of workers without jobs."

"When we look at the data by industry at the national level, Health Care and Social Assistance stands out as having the most job vacancies and the lowest unemployed person-to-job vacancy ratio.”

"Depressingly, there is also a high concentration of job vacancies in the precarious Accommodation and Food Services sector, as well as the Retail Trade sector. The mix of high-skill and low-skill industries with job vacancies is a possible sign of labour market polarization.”

"…[Also,] none of the job vacancy data takes underemployed workers into account. If we do count the more than 1.4 million underemployed workers in Canada during this period, the un(der)employment to job vacancy ratio is 14.2.", April 16, 2014: Where are the jobs without people in Canada’s labour market?,” by Angella MacEwen

Statistics Canada, The Daily, April 15, 2014: “Job vacancies in brief, three-month average ending in January 2014

Statistics Canada’s release… of its latest Job Vacancy Survey (JVS) for January, 2014, provides an opportunity to revisit the federal Finance Department’s Budget 2014 companion Jobs Report.”

"Despite Finance’s job vacancy rate being thoroughly discredited as unreliable (largely due to the revelation that it was bolstered by postings from free classified-ad website Kijiji), Employment Minister Jason Kenney insists a measure of online job ads can be a viable proxy for labour demand, provided a few minor technical concerns are worked out.

"But given the questionable methodologies and disparate numbers behind the various online-job-ad-based measures, it can’t be."

The Globe and Mail, April 15, 2014: “Of Kijiji and babysitters: Piecing together Canada’s job vacancy puzzle,” by Sam Boshra

NAFTA at 20: Overview and Trade Effects

From the summary:

"The overall economic impact of NAFTA is difficult to measure since trade and investment trends are influenced by numerous other economic variables, such as economic growth, inflation, and currency fluctuations… Nevertheless, NAFTA is significant because it was the most comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated at the time and contained several groundbreaking provisions."

"NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first FTA involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country… NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters. The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico account for a small percentage of U.S. GDP. However, there were worker and firm adjustment costs as the three countries adjusted to more open trade and investment among their economies."

"The rising number of bilateral and regional trade agreements throughout the world and the rising presence of China in Latin America could have implications for U.S. trade policy with its NAFTA partners. Some proponents of open and rules-based trade maintain that a further deepening of economic relations with Canada and Mexico will help promote a common trade agenda with shared values and generate economic growth. Some opponents argue that the agreement has caused worker displacement and that NAFTA needs to be reopened."

Congressional Research Service, April 11, 2014: “NAFTA at 20: Overview and Trade Effects,” by M. Angeles Villarreal and Ian F. Fergusson (34 pages, PDF)

Economic and Social Integration of Immigrant Live-in Caregivers in Canada

"Recent policy changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) have not improved circumstances for immigrant live-in caregivers. A new IRPP study finds the requirement that caregivers live in their employers’ homes before being eligible for permanent residence continues to adversely affect their working and living conditions. It also hinders their ability to earn a decent living wage and engage in mainstream Canadian society after completing the program."

"Their key recommendation is that caregivers be allowed to live outside their employers’ homes. ‘If they had this option, caregivers would be less likely to experience some of the inequitable working conditions they have reported.’"

"The authors also call for the following changes to be considered:

  • allow caregivers to apply for permanent residence upon arrival to Canada in order to diminish the disruption their families face;
  • better enforce employment and labour standards, including those for which provincial governments are responsible;
  • remove the requirement that caregivers obtain a study permit for credit courses longer than six months so they may update or improve their credentials; and
  • provide more funding for immigrant organizations to make settlement services more widely available to caregivers in the program and after completing it.”

Institute for Research on Public Policy, April 16, 2014: “Economic and Social Integration of Immigrant Live-in Caregivers in Canada,” by Jelena Atanackovic and Ivy Lynn Bourgeault

Institute for Research on Public Policy, April 16, 2014: “Economic and Social Integration of Immigrant Live-in Caregivers in Canada,” by Jelena Atanackovic and Ivy Lynn Bourgeault (28 pages, PDF)

The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths


"For example, she shows in detail that, while Steve Jobs brilliantly imagined and designed attractive new commercial products, almost all the scientific research on which the iPod, iPhone, and iPad were based was done by government-backed scientists and engineers in Europe and America. The touch-screen technology, specifically, now so common to Apple products, was based on research done at government-funded labs in Europe and the US in the 1960s and 1970s."

"These later breakthroughs were almost completely dependent on government-sponsored research. ‘While the products owe their beautiful design and slick integration to the genius of Jobs and his large team,’ writes Mazzucato, ‘nearly every state-of-the-art technology found in the iPod, iPhone and iPad is an often overlooked and ignored achievement of the research efforts and funding support of the government and military.’"

New York Review of Books, April 24, 2014: “Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All,” by Jeff Madrick

Enbridge Lines up Union Support for Northern Gateway Pipeline


"Enbridge has gone a long way to ensure labour peace for its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline even as residents of Kitimat — the proposed oil pipeline’s western terminus — expressed their opposition to the $6.5-billion project."

"Northern Gateway leader Janet Holder told The Province that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada and four large unions with 2.5 million members means good jobs, good paycheques and training opportunities."

"…[T]he agreement calls for 2,100 person-years of union employment during the three-year construction phase for members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America; the International Union of Operating Engineers; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada."

The Province, April 15, 2014: “Enbridge lines up union support for Northern Gateway pipeline,” by Ian Austin

CNW, April 15, 2014:Trade Unions and Northern Gateway announce MOU to Benefit Working Families and Communities”

'Express Entry': Fast Track Your Way Into Canada


"Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today [April 8, 2014] announced that Canada’s active recruitment model for economic immigration will officially be called ‘Express Entry.’ Set to launch in January 2015, ‘Express Entry’ is a major step forward in the transformation of Canada’s immigration system into one that is fast, flexible and focused on meeting Canada’s economic and labour needs."

“‘Express Entry’ will allow for greater flexibility and better responsiveness to deal with regional labour shortages, and help fill open jobs for which there are no available Canadian workers. ‘“Express Entry’ candidates who receive a valid job offer or nomination under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) will be quickly invited to apply for permanent residency – a key distinction between ‘Express Entry’ and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which is only used to fill temporary labour and skill shortages.”

"Qualified applicants can expect faster processing times of six months or less when invited to come to Canada in four key economic streams: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class, and a portion of the PNP."

"With ‘Express Entry,’ employers will have a key role in selecting economic immigrants and providing advice to the Government of Canada."

The Government of Canada, April 8, 2014: “Offering ‘Express Entry’ to Qualified Economic Immigrants: Actively Recruiting Talented Newcomers For the Benefit of Canada’s Economy”

Sun News, April 13, 2014: “Ottawa funds plan to employ skilled immigrants,” by Terry Davidson, April 15, 2014: “Canadian immigration announces new and quicker ‘Express Entry’ system”

Why Don’t Lower-Income Individuals Have Pensions?


"The brief’s key findings are:

  • Obtaining an employer pension involves four steps: 1) having a job; 2) working for a firm with a plan; 3) being eligible for the plan; and 4) taking up the plan.
  • For lower-income individuals, the weakest links in this chain are a lack of employment and employment with firms that do not offer a plan.
  • Take-up rates are less of a factor, but will become increasingly important as voluntary 401(k)s continue to replace mandatory defined benefit plans.
  • The most effective policy solution for boosting pension participation would be to provide all workers with access to a plan and automatically enroll them.”

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2014: “Why Don’t Lower-Income Individuals Have Pensions?,” by April Yanyuan Wu, Matthew S. Rutledge, and Jacob Penglase

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2014: “Why Don’t Lower-Income Individuals Have Pensions?,” by April Yanyuan Wu, Matthew S. Rutledge, and Jacob Penglase (7 pages, PDF)

Power in Numbers — Adjuncts and Unionization


Deborah O’Toole, a senior lecturer at Northeastern University, fed up by the treatment she and her fellow adjuncts receive, believes that their “hope is in the union.”

"Such sentiments have put Boston at the center of a nationwide labor-organizing effort bent on changing the lives of all adjunct faculty members, unionized or not. Rather than simply try to establish unions of adjunct faculty at individual colleges, it seeks to unionize them throughout entire metropolitan areas, to drive broader improvements in their pay, benefits, and working conditions."

"The approach seeks to shift labor-market dynamics, turning a buyer’s market in which colleges have broad leeway to set employment terms into a seller’s market in which adjuncts can take the highest bid for their services. The strategy assumes that college administrations will be less resistant to the formation of unions, and to union demands, if officials are assured that competing institutions are in the same boat."

"The thinking behind the approach holds that sufficient union saturation of a given local labor market will not only produce big gains at unionized colleges, but put nonunionized ones under pressure to treat adjuncts better, too. Those colleges might be prompted to improve pay or working conditions to be able to compete for talent or, in some cases, to discourage potential unionization drives on their own campuses."

The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 14, 2014: “Power in Numbers, ” by Peter Schmidt

Service Employees International Union — Adjunct Action website