April 8, 2021

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News and Events from the CIRHR

Spotlight On: MIR & MIRHR Alumni! Our April Spotlight features Gayle Fisher (MIR 1994), Michael Tanner (MIR 2004), Joanne St. Bernard-Honegan (MIRHR 2006), and Ron Hebdon (MIRHR 2012). Whether you are a current MIRHR, a member of our wonderful community of alumni, or simply curious about the program, we hope that, together, these spotlights will give you a taste of the many paths our graduates travel.

2021 Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture Recording: On March 29th, the CIRHR and Woodsworth College hosted the 2021 Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture, The Future of Democracy and Work: The Vote in our Economic Constitution by Dr. Ewan McGaughey, Reader in Law, King's College London. This annual lecture is now named in honour of Larry Sefton and Lynn Williams. The Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture series presents topics of interest to scholars and practitioners of labour-management relations.
The lecture recording can be viewed here.

Upcoming Events and Webinars

Labour Relations Outlook Webinar 2021: A Year of Recovery: The Labour Relations Outlook 2021 will explore the economic, compensation, and negotiating environments in which labour relations leaders will find themselves heading into bargaining in 2021.
When: Tuesday, April 13, 2021 2:00 PM ET
Where: Online

Click here to register.

Fighting Apartheid: The SACTU Solidarity Committee in TorontoIn 1980, the South African Congress of Trade Unions requested the authors of its official history, Organize or Starve, to return to Canada to build anti-apartheid solidarity through SACTU within the Canadian trade union movement. The 1980s work of education, research and action took place in Toronto and indeed throughout the country and this session brings together original members of the SACTU Solidarity Committee to elaborate on Canadian workers’ contribution to the struggle.
When: Tuesday, April 13, 2021 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM ET
Where: Online via Zoom

"The Death of Human Capital?" Virtual Seminar: Join the Centre for Researching Education and Labour from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg for this seminar, as part of the REAL Seminar Series Event. Speaker Hugh Lauder will discuss his book, The Death of Human Capital?.
When: Thursday, April 14, 2021 10:00 AM ET
Where: Online via Zoom
Click here to register.

CIRA Webinar Series: The academic researcher and her / his questions about race, gender and intersectionality: Tamara Lee
and Maite Tapia, will discuss how as academic researchers they address questions around race, gender and intersectionality. 
When: Thursday, April 15, 2021 11:00 AM ET
Where: Online via Zoom

Registration is not required.

Book Launch Invitation: This event, hosted by the Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC) at York University, will feature two recent books: The Privatization of Care: The Case of Nursing Homes, edited by Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong (Routledge); and Home Care Fault Lines: Understanding Tensions and Creating Alliances by Cynthia Cranford (ILR Press). Join us for comments across community and academia on this timely research. 
When: Monday, April 19, 2021 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM ET
Where: Online

Click here to register.

Exploring interfaces between labour and environmental law: The ETUI is pleased to invite you to an online workshop Exploring interfaces between labour and environmental law. The aim of the workshop is to explore the connections and scope for interaction between labour law and environmental law.  This workshop brings together experts in labour law and environmental law with the aim of starting a conversation, with a specific focus on, but not limited to, the context of climate change and the just transition.
When: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 8:00 AM - 11:30AM ET
Where: Online

Click here to register.

Call for Papers and Nominations

The First CLEF Awards Call for SubmissionsThe Canadian Labour Economics Forum (CLEF) announces its first CLEF Award, this year offered to the best paper written by a Canadian student or recent graduate. The aim of the competition is to recognize and support excellence in early-career research in labour economics. Submission deadline has been extended to April 23, 2021. However to be eligible, students must be registered for the CEA annual meeting by tomorrow, Friday, April 9, 2021.
More information can be found here.

ILERA Call for Nominations: President-elect and Executive Committee Members: The next President-elect of ILERA will assume the role as President at the conclusion of the 20th ILERA World Congress in 2024, and serve a three-year-term and be responsible for the organisation of the 21st ILERA World Congress in 2027. Letters of nominations should be accompanied by the nominee’s résumé/curriculum vitae or by a substantial account of the accomplishments of the nominee, including his/her engagement in ILERA, and should be sent to the ILERA Secretariat at
President-elect and Executive Committee nominations are due by April 23, 2021.

ILERA Award Nominations: If you think you know somebody that deserves one of these awards please send a letter or nomination accompanied by the nominee’s résumé/curriculum vitae or by a substantial accounts of the accomplishments of the nominee and should be sent to the ILERA Secretariat at
Luis Aparicio Prize
Academic Excellence Award
Professional Excellence Award
Please click here for more information on each award.

Award nominations are due by April 23, 2021.

Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF) Call for Films: CLiFF is a free national film festival which first started in 2009 and features films made by, for, and about the world of work and those who do it, in Canada and internationally. The films we showcase are about unionized workers, as well as those not represented by unions. We encourage projects regarding any and every aspect of work, as well as issues affecting work or workers. Submissions must be received no later than Sunday, May 9, 2021.


Upcoming Publications and Conferences

National Human Rights and Accommodation Conference: Join Lancaster House in their annual conference, including panels and workshops.
When: Tuesday, May 18 & Thursday, May 20 (Panels) and Tuesday, May 25 & Thursday, May 27 (Workshops)
Click here to register.

CIRA Annual Conference: The Annual Conference of the
Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA) will take place virtually Wednesday May 26, 2021 to Friday May, 28, 2021.
Topic: "Work and employment in times of crisis: what are the impacts, management issues, and recovery strategies?"

LERA 73rd Annual Meeting: The Labor and Employment Relations Association's (LERA) 73rd Annual Meeting will take place virtually Saturday June 5, 2021 to Tuesday June 8, 2021
Topic: "A Transformational Moment? Work, Worker Power and the Workplace in an Era of Division and Disruption"
Registration is now open! Click here to register.

19th ILERA World Congress: The 19th ILERA World Congress hosted by Lund University will take place virtually from June 21st to June 24th, 2021
Registration is now open! Click here to register.

PWR: work&labour news&research

Labour Unions

Labour Policy & Legislation

Labour Economics

Human Resource Management

Management and Leadership

Health & Safety 

Social Economy

Labour Unions


Compensation Agreement in Alberta Rejected by Doctors

“After a year and a half of acrimony with the minister of health, Alberta physicians have voted not to ratify the tentative compensation agreement between the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) and the government. … Tensions between Health Minister Tyler Shandro and physicians began in the fall of 2019 when, amidst compensation negotiations with the AMA, the government passed legislation providing for the unilateral termination of physician compensation agreements.The legislation also empowered the government to limit where new physicians can practise or what specialty they can pursue… Then, as negotiations continued, the government introduced 11 changes to the fees that physicians can bill for providing health services.”

“These contentious negotiations continued into 2020. Following a failed attempt at mediation and the government’s refusal to participate in binding arbitration, the AMA filed a legal claim alleging that the refusal to arbitrate contravened the right to freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In February 2020, the government took the unprecedented step of terminating the existing agreement with physicians prior to its expiry and imposing the 11 proposed fee changes. Due to significant pushback, Minister Shandro later backpedalled on some of the fee changes. … Despite the toxic relationship between physicians and the health minister, the AMA and the government returned to the bargaining table and, on Feb. 26, reached a tentative agreement that the AMA took to its members for a ratification vote. … Ultimately, despite Shandro’s efforts to appear contrite, physicians voted not to ratify the agreement.”

“The proposed agreement granted the minister considerable discretion over physician compensation. Although ministerial discretion is not unique to the agreement and, indeed, some of that discretion is enshrined in health insurance legislation, phrases like ‘nothing in this Agreement fetters the Minister’s authority or discretion’ raised alarm bells for some, given the climate of mistrust and concerns over how he may exercise these powers. … Although the benefits to physicians in the agreement were minimal, it did contemplate them having a seat at the table for budget management and an increased voice in physician compensation discussions. However, it is unclear whether the minister would have approached these discussions in a collaborative manner.”

CBC, March 31, 2021: “Compensation agreement rejected by Alberta doctors was flawed,” by Lorian Hardcastle and Ubaka Ogbogu 

Alberta Government, February 25, 2021: Health Business Plan - 2021-2024, (6 pages, PDF)

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Workers at Baby Formula Plant Claim Harassment from Managers

“Employees at the Canada Royal Milk plant in Kingston, Ont., say management treated them like ‘minions’ by denying them safety gear that fit, harassing employees by accusing them of being ‘overpaid’ and less industrious than workers in China and — in one instance — making physical contact with a worker during a heated dispute.”

“These workers said they are afraid someone will get killed at the plant. They’ve described malfunctioning plant equipment and a workplace culture they claim doesn’t take industry standards and safety precautions seriously. They’ve also reported concerns about the way employees are treated by management. … Employees said the plant broke provincial rules on compensation for overtime. They said some workers are forced to work 16 or even 20-hour shifts. They said they were told to bank their overtime but often found discrepancies between what they knew they’d worked and what the payroll records showed. Workers also had to fight to get access to benefits when their six-month probationary periods were over.”

“The plant’s parent company sent over a team of Chinese managers to oversee construction, commissioning and production for its $332-million investment. Training was offered in an attempt to bridge cultural gaps between what the managers were used to in China and what workers in Canada expected from their employer — but tensions remained.”

“Before reaching out to government inspectors or CBC News, employees tried to improve their workplace by organizing a union to represent them. A vote was held in March 2020, just as the pandemic began. The outcome was narrowly in favour of certifying with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. But eight ballots were disputed and sealed — enough to tip the balance away from unionization. The union is arguing that the company misrepresented the work some of the disputed employees perform — by classifying them as production staff when, in fact, they play administrative or even management roles.”

CBC, March 31, 2021: “Workers at baby formula plant claim harassment by managers,” by Janyce McGregor

Click here to view cases against Canada Royal Milk in the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII) database.

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The Potential of the PRO Act

“Nearly half (48%) of all nonunion workers surveyed say they would vote for a union if given the opportunity—a roughly 50% higher share than when a similar survey was taken 40 years earlier. … If so many workers want union representation, why don’t they have it? The fact is that our current labor law—which is supposed to protect the right of workers in the private sector to organize—actually makes it very difficult for workers to win union representation. Workers face multiple hurdles when they try to organize and employers have too much leeway to interfere with workers’ free choice. Employers have many legal ways to intimidate and coerce workers, and when employers resort to illegal tactics such as firing workers for organizing, they incur no monetary penalties.”

“The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act addresses many of the major shortcomings with our current law. Passing the PRO Act would help restore workers’ ability to organize with their co-workers and negotiate for better pay, benefits, and fairness on the job. Passing the PRO Act would also promote greater racial economic justice because unions and collective bargaining help shrink the Black–white wage gap and bring greater fairness to the workplace.”

Click here to view a chart detailing, “some of the major problems in current labor law and how the PRO Act addresses them.”

Economic Policy Institute, February 9, 2021: “Why workers need the Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” by Celine McNicholas, Margaret Poydock, and Lynn Rhinehart

Education and Labor Committee, February 4, 2021: “Protecting the Right to Organize Act Fact Sheet,” (3 pages, PDF)

Intelligencer, March 13, 2021: “The PRO Act Could Do More Than Revive Unions,” by Sarah Jones

Amazon’s Anti-Union Campaign and the PRO Act

“If Amazon’s efforts at union avoidance prove successful, the election will serve as the most recent example of employers thwarting workers’ efforts to organize a union. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the coercion, intimidation, and retaliation workers at Amazon’s Bessemer facility have endured reveal a broken union election system.”

“The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act addresses many of the major shortcomings with our current law. Specifically, it would institute meaningful penalties for private-sector employers that coerce and intimidate workers seeking to unionize—as has been clearly documented in the Amazon organizing campaign in Bessemer. … The workers at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center have performed essential services during the pandemic. At the very least, policymakers owe them a union election system that is fair and free of employer coercion and intimidation.”

Economic Policy Institute, March 29, 2021: “Amazon’s anti-union campaign is part of a long history of employer opposition to organizing,” by Celine McNicholas

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Labour Policy & Legislation 


Uber’s Proposed Revamp of Provincial Labour Laws Would Ensure that Gig Workers are Not Employees

“Ride-hailing giant Uber recently announced its Flexible Work+ plan, which it calls ‘a modern approach to app-based work in Canada.’ The company is asking provincial governments to amend labour legislation so that gig workers would accumulate 'benefit funds,’ which it proposes they could spend on things like health insurance, retirement plans and education expenses.”

“On its face, this may sound like an improvement. Workers in the gig economy are subject to precarious and unsafe working conditions, and many don’t even have a human manager they can turn to — their manager is often the algorithm that distributes work on an app. A benefit fund could seemingly help them. But that’s not the driving force behind this proposal.”

“Uber could provide benefits and labour protections to workers tomorrow if it chose to, but the company’s business model is based on treating workers as contractors instead of employees. Uber still loses billions of dollars every year after more than a decade in business, and keeping drivers’ pay low while raising prices for customers is the only way it can hope to turn a profit. If provincial governments change their labour laws in line with Uber’s proposal, they will cement the notion that gig workers are not employees and that they can be denied a minimum wage, sick days, access to employment insurance, and the same rights and protections as most other workers.”

“Companies like Uber have classified their workers as contractors for years, helping them rapidly expand and take down competitors by under-pricing their services. However, the legal tide is against Uber and its desire to keep its workers classified as contractors, with a study of more than 40 rulings in 20 countries finding that courts tend to rule in favour of workers. That is precisely why it is launching campaigns lobbying for new labour laws across the United States, Canada, and Europe like those passed through Proposition 22 in California.”

CBC, March 30, 2021: “Uber’s proposed revamp of provincial labour laws would cement the notion that gig workers are not employees,” by Paris Marx

Uber Canada, March 10, 2021: “A Modern Approach to App-Based Work in Canada”

Uber Canada, 2021: Uber Experience Survey Canada (35 pages, PDF)

United Food and Commercial Workers Union, March 11, 2021: “Uber Flexible Work+ scheme nothing but a cynical ploy to ignore labour rights”

Delivery Drivers Declared Employees in Spain

Spain’s government announced Thursday (11 March) a deal that will recognise riders working for delivery firms such as Deliveroo and UberEats as salaried staff following complaints about their working conditions — a first in the EU. The move came six months after Spain’s leftwing government pledged to clarify the legal status of couriers working for online delivery firms, saying they should be considered employees rather than 'gig’ workers.”

“The government’s deal with Spanish labour unions sets up the first legislation in Europe that explicitly regulates the status of delivery workers who get around on bikes and motorcycles and whose numbers have exploded in recent years. In Spain, as in other countries, the riders have repeatedly denounced their precarious working conditions, taking legal action to demand recognition as salaried staff, which would grant them benefits such as paid holidays and sick leave.”

Euractiv, March 12, 2021: “Spain declares delivery riders to be staff, in EU first”

International Labour Organization, March 31, 2021: Platform work and the employment relationship,“ by Valerio De Stefano, Ilda Durri, Charalampos Stylogiannis, and Mathias Wouters (61 pages, PDF)

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Labour Economics 


Canada’s Tough Task of Recovering Jobs

“One year into the pandemic, the state of Canada’s labour market is a matter of perspective. For the mid-career professional in finance or technology, the situation is vastly better than last April and somewhat close to normal, notwithstanding the challenges of working from home for an extended period. For the young person embarking on a career in hospitality, opportunities remain thin.”

“During the health crisis, the country has learned a great deal about how to work safely, and from where. That helps explain why the second wave of COVID-19 was nowhere near as destructive for employment. As it stands, Canada has recovered about 80 per cent of its pandemic job losses. Still, that leaves a big gap to fill. Around 600,000 fewer people are employed. And while the job market has greatly improved, that’s little consolation to those who are disportionately affected by layoffs and work disruptions: lowwage employees, women, the young and racialized.”

“The coming year will be one of economic revival. But the labour market does not operate in a tidy, orderly fashion. It’s not simply a matter of reclaiming jobs that were once available as health restrictions ease. Some companies have shut down for good, while others are close behind. And many businesses are taking a hard look at their operations - including which positions to phase out.”

The Globe and Mail, March 29, 2021: “‘A long way to go’: Eight charts that explain Canada’s tough task of recovering jobs,” by Matt Lundy

Statistics Canada The Daily, March 23, 2021: “Job vacancies, fourth quarter 2020”

Statistics Canada, March 11, 2021: “COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts”

Indeed Hiring Lab Canada, March 18, 2021: “Canadian Job Postings Through March 12: Hot Streak Continues,” by Brendon Bernard

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How Women are Being Left Behind in the Quest for Decent Work for All

“Even before the onset of the pandemic, gender equality in the workplace remained elusive. Now women are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as they make up the bulk of essential workers, including 70% of health-care workers. Yet, worldwide and across all regions and income groups, the pandemic has hit women’s labour market opportunities hardest. This is likely to reverse some of the progress made under Goal 8, which aims to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.”

“The labour market disruption in 2020 far exceeded the impact of the global financial crisis of 2009. Employment losses were not only unprecedented but also steeper for women (5.0 per cent) than for men (3.9 per cent). Moreover, as school closures due to lockdowns required more at-home supervision of children, women were much more likely to drop out of the labour force than men in order to provide such care. … Social distancing measures, lock-downs and distorted supply chains and markets have exacerbated structural inequities and challenges that typically impede the performance and growth of women-owned businesses, and resulted in many closing down operations.”

“The worsening situation for young people due to the COVID-19 crisis is particularly worrisome for young women. Almost a third of female youth worldwide were already not in education, employment or training in 2019. … An estimated 1.6 billion informal economy workers – that is, 76 per cent of informal workers globally — were significantly impacted by the lockdown measures and/or working in the hardest-hit sectors such as accommodation and food services. Among them, women were overrepresented in high-risk sectors: 42 per cent of women workers were working in those sectors, compared to 32 per cent of men.”

“As we have known for some time, the COVID-19 crisis has had disproportionate impacts on women. The available data is increasingly showing to what extent this is exacerbating existing gender inequalities. In this context, to build back better and fairer, employment policies must put gender equality at the core of the recovery efforts, while we must also strengthen gender measures and data to adequately quantify the challenges we face.”

International Labour Organization, March 29, 2021: “How women are being left behind in the quest for decent work for all,” by Vipasana Karkee and Marie-Claire Sodergren

International Labour Organization, 2020: The Impact of Marriage and Children on Labour Market Organization, (11 pages, PDF)

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Women, 86 Percent Absent From Jordan’s Work Force, Are Left Behind

“Marwa Alomari’s compassionate and patient style made her a popular English teacher, filling her classes in Irbid, Jordan, with eager students and her off hours with private tutoring. A university graduate, she was paid up to $3,000 a month, far more than most fellow Jordanians. But after she married an army officer and moved in with his family, he began to resent that she was paid more than he was. Even though she contributed to the household with both money and housework, he and his family discouraged her from working and the marriage nearly fell apart, she said.”

“Her story reflects what is happening across Jordan — a small Arab monarchy that has been a steadfast ally of Western countries — where women’s status in terms of labor force participation, health and politics has been regressing for years, even lagging behind more conservative countries in the region. For the past 10 years, the country has sat near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which tracks gaps between women and men in employment, education, health and politics.”

“After big gains over the past three decades, more women than men in the country now graduate from university, and women also have higher literacy rates. Despite that, 86 percent of women in the country are absent from the work force, according to government figures and the latest Global Gender Gap Report. That is the highest rate in the world for a country not at war, according to the World Bank.”

The New York Times, April 3, 2021: “Women, 86 Percent Absent From Jordan’s Work Force, Are Left Behind,” by Rana F. Sweis

OECD, March 8, 2021: Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment

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Human Resource Management 


PwC Says Start When You Like, Leave When You Like

“Following the pandemic the accountancy giant is offering its staff much more control over their working pattern. PwC chairman Kevin Ellis said he hoped this would make flexible working ‘the norm rather than the exception’. ‘We want our people to feel trusted and empowered,’ Mr Ellis said.  A year of working from home and juggling childcare when schools were closed and other responsibilities mounted, has prompted many businesses to look again at the traditional working week.”

“Mr Ellis said PwC wanted to retain a mix of working from home and the office. ‘Without conscious planning now there’s a risk we lose the best bits of these new ways of working when the economy opens up again,’ he said. The pandemic has highlighted many advantages to working from home, the time and expense saved commuting, not having to wear tights or a tie, and a better work-life balance, including spending more time with the children. But for many the appeal of the zoom-in-a-tracksuit meeting is fading, compared to the idea of water-cooler moments and after-work drinks. They look forward to being back in the work environment, and free from the demands of the children. …  PwC expect their staff will want the best of both worlds, and will adopt a ‘blended working’ approach, spending around half of their working hours either in the office or at clients’ workplaces.”

BBC News, March 31, 2021: “PwC says start when you like, leave when you like”

World Economic Forum, March 18, 2021: How has working from home impacted productivity? This UK survey has answers, by Shivani Taneja, Paul Mizen, and Nicholas Bloom

Statistics Canada The Daily, April 1, 2021: “Study: Working from home: Productivity and preferences” (8 pages, PDF)

Concerns about work-from-home surveillance 

“Global call centre company Teleperformance has alerted employees in the U.K. that it will use webcams to monitor workers who work from home. The company has told some staff that it will install specialist webcams to check if remote workers are violating rules. The cameras are connected to an artificial intelligence system (ANI) that will randomly scan for breaches of work rules during a shift. … The webcam system ‘monitors and tracks real-time employee behaviour and detects any violations to pre-set business rules, and sends real-time alerts to managers to take corrective actions immediately,’ according to the report. A still photo of the breach will be sent to a manager and the file will be stored up to 20 days. Possible breaches include ‘missing from desk,’ ‘detecting an idle user,’ ‘unauthorized mobile phone usage’ and another person being in the workspace area.”

“In January, Albania’s information and data protection commissioner released a decision stating that Teleperformance could not use webcams to spy on Albanian workers in their homes. The finding came after workers’ union Solidariteti filed a complaint against the invasive practice of camera surveillance late in 2020, says UNI Global Union in the U.K. After Teleperformance went to a work-from-home model due to the pandemic, it installed webcams in Albania but some management and workers protested against the move.”

Canadian HR Reporter, March 29, 2021: “Webcam surveillance faces backlash,” by Jim Wilson

IndustriAll European Trade Union, March 16, 2021: Telework must not lead to excessive surveillance of workers, Campaign Leaflet (2 pages, PDF)

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Job-hunting is Stressful and Humiliating Enough. Now Robots Judge our Résumés

“I have been looking for a full-time job for over a year now. … In all this time, I have not even made it as far as the interview process. While a few of these jobs simply ask for a résumé and cover letter, mostly when I’ve been applying for work I’m asked to enter my information into a form on a website. I must choose from a drop-down menu my education level; I must type out exactly my work timeline with precise dates. If I’m emailing someone a résumé, I figure I might have a shot. With the forms, however, I know it’s hopeless even as I’m doing it. My résumé will be sorted out and rejected before anyone even takes a look at it, for one simple reason: I did not graduate college.”

“Algorithms are increasingly used by employers and headhunting firms to find the ‘best’ and most qualified candidates. Before your potential future employer even has a chance to see your application for a job opening, there is a good chance your application has been rejected by a computer for specific criteria and will never be seen by a person. Some of these algorithms were put in place to try to break through human unconscious bias – to give a better shot to people with names that do not scream ‘white man’, or to address the problem of thin, attractive people doing better in job searches than those who do not meet conventional beauty standards.”

“Employers like these sorting applications, then, because it gives them the sheen of pure objectivity. Opportunities are simply offered to the most qualified. How can a computer be prejudiced? It would probably not surprise you to learn, however, that algorithms, which are created by humans, also recreate human bias. The working class; single mothers; people with chronic health issues; people who have spent time in prison or rehab facilities – all are more likely to have gaps in their work history. And while there are countless websites that offer tips on how to explain those gaps or overcome a lack of references or credentials during an interview, that explanation doesn’t matter if you can’t even get your application or résumé in front of a human. And because many of these processes are not transparent, it can be difficult to challenge the algorithm’s assessment or even know what part of your application is setting off the rejection.”

The Guardian, March 15, 2021: “Job-hunting is stressful and humiliating enough. Now robots judge our résumés,” by Jessa Crispin 

The New York Times, March 15, 2021: “Who Is Making Sure the A.I. Machines Aren’t Racist?” by Cade Metz

Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, March 2021: On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big? by  Emily M. Bender, Timnit Gebru, Angelina McMillan-Major, and Shmargaret Shmitchell (14 pages, PDF)

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Management & Leadership


5 Ways to Close the Tech Industry’s Race Gap Through Education

“How can technology and innovation become more inclusive? According to data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 83% of tech executives are white. Meanwhile, at Apple, 6% of the tech workforce last year was Black. At Google, just under one-quarter of interns were Black and Latinx, and 5.5% of new hires were Black. …  Here are five of their suggestions for how leaders in both the public and private sectors can cultivate diversity in the tech workforce.”

  • “Stop the tech stigma early: … Many students initially presume a career in tech is out of reach. … Part of the problem is a lack of what the Dawsons call ‘dinner table capital’ among underrepresented youth. Because their parents might not be in tech, they don’t talk about it at home. This is reinforced by the broader notion that math is untouchable.”
  • Make role models matter: Early education can only go so far. Disadvantaged students need tech role models who can lay out a path forward and show how interests can actually evolve into a career.”
  • “Address the cost and realities of higher education: ‘Only 24% of Boston’s Black and Latinx population have a college degree. That’s not for lack of interest. It has everything to do with systemic racism and systemic barriers,’ … [Aisha] Francis [CEO of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology] has pushed for policies to make it easier for minorities to attend college, such as extending the deadline for Massachusetts’ MASSGrant financial assistance programs into the summer, reflecting realistic timelines for many students.”
  • “Hire based on skillset: Francis also urged companies to diversify through hiring based on skillset rather than degree or years of identical work experience. She pointed to Opportunity@Work’s STARS (Skilled Through Alternative Routes) concept as a successful model, which tracks skilled workers into jobs they might otherwise never access due to prerequisites like certain degrees.”
  • “Deliberately broaden your horizons: Francis had a simple solution for breaking down barriers: Get to know your fellow students and colleagues as people. Assess and diversify your networks. Find common ground. ‘You have to be willing to take risks. And, you know, there are going to be awkward moments. But I think you can approach each other on the level of humanity. Sometimes it’s establishing relationships based on hobbies or common interests, not based on gender and ethnicity,’ she said. ‘It’s little moments. It’s, ‘Hey, how’s your family? Who are you as a human being?’ Relationships start there.’”

MIT Sloan Thinking Forward, March 24, 2021: “5 ways to close the tech industry’s race gap through education, “ by Kara Baskin

Apple, 2020: Inclusion & Diversity 

Google, 2020: 2020 Diversity Annual Report (33 pages, PDF)

Opportunity @ Work: STARs Skilled Through Alternative Routes

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Health & Safety


Opinion: Health and Long-term Care Workers who Decline Vaccination Should be put on Unpaid Leave

“How can it be that during a pandemic that has killed more than 22,000 Canadians and sickened nearly a million, individuals who work directly with the most vulnerable populations are under no obligation to be vaccinated? That hospital staff, long-term care workers and other front-line personnel can choose to decline a safe and effective tool to protect their health and the health of their patients, and yet still show up to work as normal as if we aren’t in the midst of an ongoing global public health emergency? It would be of less critical importance if Canada had already reached herd immunity, or if vaccines were 100 per cent effective in preventing illness, or if some long-term care homes weren’t forced into lockdown every time a staff member tests positive for COVID-19. But the overwhelming majority of Canadians have not even received one dose of vaccine, and they risk exposure to the virus if they happen to need medical care or hospitalization and the people treating them declined vaccination.”

“[T]he safety and efficacy of these vaccines have been demonstrated through real-world inoculation programs. Competent governments would have initiated campaigns to counter vaccine hesitancy months ago, in multiple languages, in anticipation of the inevitable concerns people would have about brand-new vaccines. But the stakes are too high to wait for healthcare and long-term care workers to gradually come around on their own now, as we enter the third wave. They need to be offered incentives to get the vaccine – paid time off, transportation to clinics, even bonuses or perks – but ultimately, a choice: vaccinate, or be put on unpaid leave.”

“A provincial order requiring healthcare workers and long-term care staff to be vaccinated (with exceptions for those with certain medical conditions) or be placed on unpaid leave would absolutely be the subject of a Section 7 Charter challenge, on the grounds that it may violate an individual’s right to ‘life, liberty and security of the person.’ But a court might find the infringement reasonable on account of the fact that we are in a global pandemic and battling a virus that is several times deadlier than the flu, and economic rights – which in this case would be a ‘right’ to be paid for a certain job during a public health emergency – are generally not protected by Section 7 of the Charter anyway.”

The Globe and Mail, April 1, 2021: “Health and long-term care workers who decline vaccination should be put on unpaid leave,” by Robyn Urback

CanLII Connects, March 17, 2020: “Influenza: wearing masks and forced flu-shots (experts disagree),” by Edward Conway

CMAJ, February 8, 2021: Mandatory vaccination for health care workers: an analysis of law and policy, by Colleen M. Flood, Bryan Thomas and Kumanan Wilson (4 pages, PDF)

Canadian Immunization Guide

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Social Economy


A Prescription for Fixing Elder Care? Australia Has Already Written the Script

“The elder care systems in Canada and Australia are remarkably similar in both their structures and failings. The two countries share another dubious distinction: In both jurisdictions elders have disproportionately suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. The [Australian Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety], which began its deliberations in 2018, well before the pandemic hit, has recently published its final report, titled Care, Dignity and Respect. The conclusion of the massive 2,800-page, eight-volume opus can be summarized in a single sentence from the introduction: ‘People receiving aged care deserve better.’ How better can be achieved is spelled out in the report’s 148 recommendations, almost every one of which should be adopted by Canada.”

“The overarching change the commissioners call for is a philosophical one, shifting to a rights-based approach from a ration-driven one. In both Australia and Canada, hospital and physician care are fully covered by medicare, but long-term care and home care are not. The result is ration and inequity: There are long wait lists for subsidized care, and people who can pay get better access. The approach proposed by the Australian commission is legislative, creating an Aged Care Act that enshrines the right to universal access to care. The equivalent in Canada would be making long-term care and home care ‘medically necessary’ services under the terms of the Canada Health Act. The major themes tackled in the Australian commission recommendations are the same ones now at the top of the Canadian health policy agenda – standards of care, staffing and funding.”

“In long-term care, the commission recommends mandating a minimum of 200 minutes of one-on-one care daily, including 40 from a registered nurse. (In Canada, the push is for 240 minutes, with 48 minutes from an RN.) There are calls for better training of personal care workers (known as care aides and personal support workers in Canada), as well as improved pay and benefits. The commission says long-term care should shift from large prison-like institutions to a ‘small household model of accommodation.’ (Both Australia’s and Canada’s systems have their roots in the penal system, not the health system.)The Australian report repeats an oft-heard cry to shift way more resources to home care. Australia has a wait list of more than 100,000 people for home care; Canada doesn’t even bother counting, but the number is likely as high. Those on wait lists for home care end up being funnelled to long-term care homes or even hospitals, and rarely return home.”

The Globe and Mail, March 30, 2021: “A prescription for fixing elder care? Australia has already written the script,” by Andre Picard

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, March 1, 2021: Final Report, Executive Summary (115 pages, PDF), List of Recommendations (107 pages, PDF)

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Low-cost Childcare Delivers Female Labour-force Participation

“The OECD’s economic study of Canada this month makes a stark observation: ‘the supply of affordable, high-quality childcare remains inadequate, prompting involuntary part-time working and career breaks among women and contributing to gender inequality.’ Yet Canada has, on its territory, one of the world’s foremost models of a system that promotes female workforce participation. Quebec began almost 25 years ago with a fee-subsidy program targeting 4-year-olds, and now covers both preschool and school-aged children. The uniform rate is $8.50 per day in 2021 – under $200 a month compared to the Ontario big-city average of about $1,800 a month. In addition, Quebec also offers a generous refundable tax credit for childcare expenses ranging from 75 percent to 26 percent of eligible costs, depending on the level of net family income.”

“Of course, all this has a cost, around $3.3 billion in 2020 spent by Quebec ($2.7 billion for reduced-contribution childcare and around $610 million for the refundable childcare tax credit). In 1996, prior to its introduction, Quebec’s employment rate of mothers aged 25 to 54 years (59.9 percent) was lower than in the rest of Canada (62.3 percent) by 2.4 percentage points. From 1996 to 2019, mothers’ employment rate grew by 18.4 points in Quebec, which is 2.5 times the increase in the rest of Canada (7.4 points) and Ontario (7.2 points).As a result, mothers’ employment rate is now significantly higher in Quebec in 2019 than in the rest of Canada (by an enormous margin of 9.1 points). The reduced-contribution childcare program is clearly, at least in part, an explanation for this reversal of the employment rate of mothers aged 25 to 54.”

“A similar storyline holds internationally as well. A look at women aged 25 to 54 (regardless of whether they have or not children) shows a general improvement in their employment from 1996 to 2019. Back in 1996, Quebec’s performance was pulling down on the Canadian average employment rate. Now in 2019, Quebec’s performance is pulling the average up, ranking just behind Sweden for the highest employment rate of women aged 25 to 54. In the same time period, the ROC slipped from tenth to fifteenth. The data demonstrate the potential gains for Canadian governments to support development of a low-cost childcare system. As Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed out in her fall economic statement, Quebec can show the way on childcare.”

CD Howe Institute, March 31, 2021: Low-cost Childcare Delivers Female Labour-force Participation, by Luc Godbout and Suzie St-Cerny

CD Howe Institute, March 30, 2021: Aggressive Incrementalism: Strengthening the Foundations of Canada’s Approach to Childcare by Ken Boessenkool and Jennifer Robson (28 pages, PDF)

Bank of Canada, February 23, 2021: Canada’s labour market: rebound, recuperation and restructuring, by Tiff Macklem (10 pages, PDF)

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eBook of the Week

In the Name of Liberty: The Argument for Universal Unionization, by Mark R Reiff, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020.417 p. ISBN 1108495400 (eBook)
From the publisher: "For years now, unionization has been under vigorous attack. Membership has been steadily declining, and with it union bargaining power. As a result, unions may soon lose their ability to protect workers from economic and personal abuse, as well as their significance as a political force. In the Name of Liberty responds to this worrying state of affairs by presenting a new argument for unionization, one that derives an argument for universal unionization in both the private and public sector from concepts of liberty that we already accept. In short, In the Name of Liberty reclaims the argument for liberty from the political right, and shows how liberty not only requires the unionization of every workplace as a matter of background justice, but also supports a wide variety of other progressive policies."

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