April 22, 2021

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News and Events from the CIRHR

Conflict Resolution at Work: Hosted jointly by the University of Toronto's CIRHR and Lancaster House this two-day program features proven skills and strategies for managers and union representatives. Conflict resolution has long been identified as one of the key skills that union and employer representatives must possess to be successful in their roles. Drawing from extensive research and field testing, this program will provide training in the most effective skills and strategies for resolving workplace conflict. Emphasis will be on hands-on skills training and development of practical tools.
When: Monday, June 28 and Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET
Click here to register. Early bird registration ends April 30.

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.

Upcoming Events and Webinars

Embodying Care: Care Work and Covid-19: Join us for a roundtable discussion organized by Drew Danielle Belsky (PhD Candidate, York University). This virtual panel invites presenters and participants to explore the entanglements of gendered and colonial politics and the labour of caring for human bodies through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When: Tomorrow Friday, April 23, 2021, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM ET 
Where: Online via Zoom

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.

Labor Rights and COVID-19 in the USA, Germany, and Canada: Join the CIRA for a live, interactive conversation that will highlight some of the ways that labor rights are under threat during the crisis, and the innovative ways that labor unions are exploring to protect vulnerable workers. 
When: Tuesday, April 27, 2021 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM ET
Where: Online via Zoom

Click here to register.

Call for Papers and Nominations

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 Tomorrow 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 Tomorrow 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 Monday, June 21 to Thursday, June 24, 2021
Registration is now open! Click here to register.

eBook of the Week

Closing the Enforcement Gap: Improving Employment Standards Protections for People in Precarious Jobs, by Leah Faith Vosko. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020. 470 p. ISBN 9781487534042 (eBook)

From the publisher: "The sole source of protection for many workers in precarious jobs, this book reveals gaps in the enforcement of employment standards in Ontario, Canada, and offers a bold vision for change drawing on innovative initiatives emerging elsewhere."

PWR: work&labour news&research

Labour Unions

Human Resource Management

Health & Safety

Social Economy

Labour Unions


Laurentian Faculty Ratify New Collective Agreement ‘Under Duress’

“Two days after deep staff and program cuts were announced, the Laurentian University Faculty Association has ratified its collective agreement — but its president says it was done under duress. On Monday, 83 professors were terminated and 27 positions were cut through attrition and retirements, while 70 programs were cut. It’s all part of the restructuring the Sudbury, Ont., university has been undergoing as part of the insolvency process, which has allowed it to operate while taking steps to get its financial situation in order. LUFA head Fabrice Colin said members were told the university would close if the union didn't vote in favour of the tentative contract — they agreed to a five per cent cut in salary and a two-year salary freeze. 'It was a vote under duress because the alternative was the failure of the ratification vote, and therefore the failure of the CCAA process,’ said Colin, referring to the actions under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.”

“'This was an incredibly difficult process and, unfortunately, its outcome means that important programs and jobs at Laurentian will be lost. We fought hard to minimize the damage but, without the provincial government at the table, we were in an impossible position,’ said Colin, referring to everything that led to the contract ratification. 'It now appears clear that this was the outcome that both Laurentian’s senior administration and Minister Romano were working toward.’”

“'What has transpired at Laurentian University sets a disturbing precedent for the administration of post-secondary education in the province of Ontario.’ The chair of the Canadian Federation of Students said he’s heard from many Laurentian students about how the cuts at the university will affect them and their degree paths.

"Sebastien Lalonde said the university’s insolvency is part of a chronic lack of funding for post secondary education in the province, and the government should have intervened months ago. 'The ministry is meant to assure that we have proper funding and functioning in our universities and colleges to make sure students can graduate and get the education experiences they signed up for when they initially applied.’”

CBC News, April 14, 2021: “'Under duress,’ Laurentian University faculty ratify new collective agreement”

Laurentian University Faculty Association, February 17, 2021: “FAQ on the CCAA Insolvency Proceedings of Laurentian University”

Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, April 14, 2021: “Laurentian’s senior leadership and Minister of Colleges and Universities should step down in wake of financial crisis”

PwC Canada: “What is CCAA?”

Government of Canada: Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act

Norther Solidarity: “Here’s how you can support Laurentian University”

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Future-Proofing Universities

“Universities are at a crossroads, with COVID-19 acting as a tipping point for whether they thrive or barely survive. On April 13, about 100 faculty members from Laurentian University lost their jobs because of a massive restructuring and insolvency negotiations. In Australia this past fall, University of Sydney eliminated 10 faculties and 100 programs in order to increase its long-term sustainability. Demographic, technological and socio-economic trends, including reduced government funding and increased dependency on private donors, are influencing the mandate of universities, and survival depends on transformation.”

“Our research shows universities must ‘future proof’ themselves, which happens when an institutional strategy is focused on the future while mitigating the impact of unforeseen events. Successful future-proofing involves clearly articulating a path to a new vision with the participation of faculty, staff and external community members. It also involves consistently applying decision-making criteria and continuously measuring progress.”

“A strategy provides a line-of-sight between the desired future state, the development or cancellation of programs, attracting and allocating funds and how the university will measure the impact of decisions. Difficult decisions must be based on transparent and consistent criteria, and visible benchmarks must be monitored to assess progress towards strategic goals. Resistance decreases when stakeholders understand the basis of a decision, perceive consistency in the criteria applied across decisions and recognize progress towards goals. Universities without a visible strategy will not flourish and may not even survive.”

The Conversation, April 14, 2021: “To ‘future proof’ universities, leaders have to engage faculty to make tough decisions,” by Loren Falkenberg and M. Elizabeth Cannon

Falkenberg, L. E. & Cannon, M. E. (2021). Strategic university management: future proofing your institution. New York, NY; London, England: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).

Timmins The Daily Press, April 14, 2021: “How to fix Laurentian University without gutting it,” by Lionel Rudd

The Guardian, August 20, 2020: “Sydney university asks staff to ‘suggest’ how to cut up to 30% of jobs in some faculties,” by Naaman Zhou

The University of Sydney, November 2018: “What Should Universities Be?” (7 pages, PDF)

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Unifor’s Objections to Bill 254 and Recent Amendments

“‘When Doug Ford’s Conservatives tabled this bill, the intent was immediately obvious, to create fear, confusion, and a chill effect on political expression and organizing in the province,’ said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. 'He may be scared of what workers have to say about his government, but Doug Ford’s fear is no excuse for ramming through this anti-democratic legislation.’”

“The bill severely and aggressively targets third parties through a massive expansion of the pre-election period, restrictions on all issue advertising for 12 months before an election, and a fantastical re-writing of the definition of collusion to include third parties 'sharing information’ or sharing a common vendor. To further enhance this chill on democratic engagement, the bill… empowers the chief elections officer with handing out fines of up to $100,000 with no notice or investigation required.”

“The law seeks to stack the deck in favour of the Conservatives and would double the personal allowable political contribution from $1,500 to $3000– something only rich donors and their beneficiaries will be able to take full advantage of. The Progressive Conservative Party has the most donors that contribute the current maximum amount. … 'As a trade union, we are dedicated to representing the interests of our members, both at the bargaining table and through political action. Political advertising is one significant way in which we advocate on our members behalf,’ Rizvi told the committee, before asking members to withdraw the legislation. 'This political expression does not undermine electoral fairness, it enhances it.’”

Unifor, April 13, 2021: “Conservatives double-down with amendments to Bill 254, the ‘Squashing Ontario Democracy Act’”

Unifor, April 13, 2021: “Unifor’s Objections to Bill 254,” (14 pages, PDF)

Legislative Assembly of Ontario: Bill 254 (15 pages, PDF)

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Air Canada and Federal Government Reach Deal on Relief Package

“The federal government has reached an agreement with Air Canada that will provide the pandemic-battered airline with financial support — while committing the airline to refunding customers who saw their flights cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Under the deal, the government will extend to the country’s largest airline a variety of low-interest loans worth up to $5.4 billion and take an equity stake in the company by purchasing $500 million in stocks.

"In exchange for federal government support, Air Canada has agreed to refund customers who had their flights cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline also has agreed to restore flights on nearly all suspended regional routes, to cap compensation for company executives at $1 million per year and to suspend share buybacks and the payment of dividends to shareholders during the loan period. In addition, Air Canada said it would to maintain its workforce at current levels, respect collective bargaining agreements and protect workers’ pensions.”

“Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, which represents about 15,000 workers in the airline industry, called the agreement a ‘win-win’ for the government, consumers, the industry and airline workers. 'You’ve got consumers [who] are winning because Air Canada is going to give back their refunds. Taxpayers are winning because these are straight loans, it’s not grants. And the federal government will take about $500 million worth of shares or six per cent ownership,’ said Dias in an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics.”

CBC News, April 12, 2021: “Federal government, Air Canada reach deal on relief package that includes customer refunds,” Ryan Patrick Jones

Is the aid package really a win-win?

“The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing roughly 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, says the federal government’s $5.9 billion aid package for Air Canada announced Monday evening breaks the government’s commitments to workers.”

“'This announcement is good news for our 2,000 members still working at Air Canada and for the stability of the company going forward, but it’s tough to think this is what we waited 13 months for,’ said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. 'This announcement leaves over 7,500 of my members with no answers and no income supports.’ Lesosky says the only jobs guarantee in the agreement – that Air Canada maintain April 1, 2021 staffing levels – makes no sense, since staffing was already all but guaranteed to rise as summer approaches and immunization efforts ramp up across the country. 'It’s insulting, to be honest,’ Lesosky added.”

CUPE, April 13, 2021: “Federal aid package fails workers at Air Canada: CUPE”

Government of Canada, April 12, 2021: “Details of Financial Support to Air Canada”

Government of Canada, 2020: Canada’s Flight Plan for Navigating COVID-19 (23 pages, PDF)

Air Canada, 2021: Air Canada Reports 2020 Annual Reports, (77 pages, PDF)

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A Postmortem on the Amazon Union Campaign

“Workers at Amazon desperately need to unionize, in Alabama, Germany—and any other place where the high-tech, futuristic employer with medieval attitudes about employees sets up a job site of any kind. With conditions so bad, what explains the defeat in Bessemer? Three factors weigh heavily in any unionization election: the outrageously vicious behavior of employers—some of it illegal, most fully legal—including harassing and intimidating workers, and telling bold lies (which, outside of countries with openly repressive governments, is unique to the United States); the strategies and tactics used in the campaign by the organizers; and the broader social-political context in which the union election is being held.”

“From the get-go, the campaign in Bessemer had what many experienced organizers recognized as nearly fatal flaws. The first of these was a widely inaccurate assumption about how many employees worked in the warehouse. … The next warning signs came in February, when Amazon launched, a website describing all the things workers could do with the money they would otherwise pay in dues to a union. Amazon concurrently posted a hashtag on Twitter. … In the vast majority of successful campaigns, how and where conversations with workers take place is crucial. … What was concerning to experienced organizers, however, was the realization that the majority of the face-to-face contacts with workers were happening at the plant gate. … The last thing nervous workers want is to be seen near the place they work, talking with union supporters.”

“Every worker in the Bessemer campaign deserved to win. And if the rules for unionization in the United States came close to being fair, they would have won. But the rules aren’t fair. Quite the opposite: They are outrageously unfair. What workers trying to form unions against immoral employers do deserve is the kind of effort that stands a chance of winning. There’s plenty of evidence of what works. Social media and shortcut digital approaches don’t work when fear and division is the central weapon. Workers can win unions—and workers can strike and win. It is hard as hell, and to do that requires a no-shortcuts approach.”

The Nation, April 9, 2021: “Blowout in Bessemer: A Postmortem on the Amazon Campaign,” by Jane McAlevey

McAlevey, J. (2020). A collective bargain: unions, organizing, and the fight for democracy. New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).

McAlevey, J. (2016). No shortcuts: organizing for power in the new gilded age. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (eBook available to the University of Toronto community).

BBC News, April 18, 2021: “Amazon: How one cancer patient’s story helps explain the Alabama union vote,” by James Clayton

Black Work Talk website.

Levitt, M. J. & Conrow, T. (1993). Confessions of a Union Buster. New York, New York: Crown. (Available to the University of Toronto community).

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Human Resource Management


The Latest Workplace Perk: Cash Bonuses for Taking Vacations

“With time off piling up for many employees in the pandemic, companies are getting creative in their efforts to persuade people to disconnect. Some employers, like Google, are offering a bonus vacation day for those who book time off now. Others are adding all-company holidays to the schedule. Even more unconventional is the approach of accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers: It will pay people to sign off.”

“The new corporate experiments reflect genuine concern among managers that burned-out employees have had few breaks over the past year, as many have worked almost continuously at home. Then there are the financial implications: Unused vacation time is considered a liability for most companies, something employers generally pay if employees leave an organization. People have hesitated to take time off with travel or leisure opportunities limited, executives and employees say. In the remote era, workers nervous about their job security or standing with bosses may also resist going on vacation if few of their peers are, says Dane Jensen, CEO of Third Factor, an employee-coaching and leadership development firm.”

“Some workers say that when they’re already at home and surrounded by family, they see less need to take a vacation. Others worry, with the volume of work higher now, vacations might not even seem like vacations. One common worry Mr. Jensen says he hears: ‘Will I constantly be answering emails because there’s so much air traffic right now, 24/7, that I won’t even get the recovery?’ … Many organizations are asking employees to take time now, warning that it won’t be possible for everyone to take vacation later this year.”

The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2021: “The Latest Workplace Perk: Cash Bonuses for Taking Vacations,” by Chip Cutter

Axios, March 24, 2021: “The rise of the dreaded 'workcation’,” by Erica Pandey

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Health & Safety


‘If You’re Sick, Stay Home’ is a Non-starter for Many Canadians

“The debate around paid sick leave has grown louder and more urgent in the past several weeks as COVID-19 cases have continued to soar in many parts of the country along with concern that people are going to work sick because they can’t afford to lose their pay. … Many worker advocates say what is needed is better paid sick leave. At the end of February, the labour federations from all 10 provinces and three territories joined together to call for 'seamless access to universal, permanent and adequate employer-paid sick days for all workers.’ That has not happened. Here’s a brief look at where paid sick leave stands right now in Canada.”

How many Canadians have paid sick leave?

“Most don’t, according to a report released last August by the Decent Work and Health Network, a network of health providers based in Ontario who advocate for better employment conditions. Fifty-eight per cent of workers in Canada reported having no access to paid sick days, the report found, citing a University of B.C. analysis of 2016 Statistics Canada data. It’s even higher for those who earn less than $25,000 — more than 70 per cent had no paid sick leave. And a study released last fall by Corporate Knights found only 28 per cent of the large Canadian companies surveyed offered adequate sick leave, which was defined as at least 10 paid days per year.”

What does the federal program cover?

“The $1.1 billion Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB), which was unveiled last fall, offers workers $500 ($450 after taxes) for a one-week period. If the illness lasts longer, the worker must reapply. The CRSB will pay a maximum of two weeks total, for the period between Sept. 27, 2020 and Sept. 25, 2021. A worker must be off sick for at least 50 per cent of their normal work week to qualify, and must have earned $5000 in 2019, 2020, or in the 12 months prior to applying. Some advocates say it falls short of what is needed. 'What we’re trying to address here is a worker who wakes up in the morning and they have symptoms,’ said Laird Cronk, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, one of the 13 federations that made the joint request for employer-paid sick leave.”

“The application process and eligibility criteria make it difficult for a worker to just decide to stay home, he said. 'We don’t want them to say, I’m so worried about this untenable decision, so worried about paying rent or groceries and food or medications or for the kids, that they convince themselves that it’s probably seasonal allergies and they hope for the best because they can’t afford to lose the money.’”

CBC, April 9, 2021: “'If you’re sick, stay home’ is a non-starter for many Canadians,” by Stephanie Hogan

Decent Work & Health Network, August 19, 2020: Before it’s Too Late: How to Close the Paid Sick Day Gap During COVID-19 and Beyond (49 pages, PDF)

UBC Partnership for Work, Health and Safety, May 28, 2020: Ability to work from home and paid sick leave benefits by precarious employment and socioeconomic status (6 pages, PDF)

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SARS and H1N1 Tell Us Paid Sick Days Essential Tool in Covid-19 Fight

“There is overwhelming evidence that paid sick leave and paid quarantine leave are critical to stopping the spread of contagious illnesses. An independent commission that studied the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto found provincial compensation for people needing to quarantine was vital to stopping the spread of SARS. The commission recommended that governments have a plan to contain future outbreaks that ensured sick workers could stay home. A study of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic found that workers without paid sick leave were more likely to go to work while sick, causing an estimated seven million additional H1N1 infections in the United States.”

“Workplaces have been a source of infection throughout the pandemic in Canada, especially for low-wage workers in food processing, retail, personal care and cleaning services.. The Ontario region of Peel, a COVID hotspot in the second wave, has declared 218 workplace outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. Peel has 80 per cent of the warehouse workers in the Greater Toronto Area, and almost half of the COVID cases stemming from workplace outbreaks in the region came from warehouses. A Peel Public Health study conducted between August 2020 and January 2021 found that 25 per cent of workers with COVID-19 symptoms went into work anyway.”

“In the wake of SARS and H1N1, several US states and large cities did mandate that employers provide paid sick leave. Researchers found that having paid sick leave reduced seasonal influenza rates by up to 40 per cent compared to jurisdictions that didn’t have it. While Ontario temporarily added two universal paid sick days in 2018, they were quickly removed by the Ford government in 2019. No other substantial changes to paid leave were successful in any other province or territory.”

CUPE, March 22, 2021: Paid sick days essential tool in COVID-19 fight

Government of Manitoba, March 1, 2021: COVID-19 Infections in Manitoba:  Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity (10 pages, PDF)

The SARS Commission, April 5, 2005: SARS and Public Health Legislation Volume 5 (559 pages, PDF)

Institute for Women’s Policy Research, February 2010: Sick at Work: Infected Employees in the Workplace During the H1N1 Pandemic by Robert Drago and Kevin Miller (14 pages, PDF)

Vox EU, May 12, 2018: “The pros and cons of sick pay schemes: Contagious presenteeism and noncontagious absenteeism behaviour,” by Stefan Pichler and Nicolas Robert Ziebarth

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New Poll Shows Vast Majority of Ontarians in Favour of Legislated Paid Sick Days

“A new poll, commissioned by Unifor, reveals that the vast majority of Ontarians support the legislation of paid sick days for workers. The poll, conducted by EKOS Research Associates Inc. April 7-12, 2021, reveals that Ontarians support the implementation of paid sick days by a margin of four to one. Support was highest among women and with people under 35 years of age, at 75% and 74% respectively. The poll also found that the public widely dismissed the notion that legislated paid sick leave will harm the economy and cost jobs, with just 23% believing that legislation to allow workers to stay home when they are ill will hurt businesses.”

“Two-thirds (68%) are also supportive of providing a subsidy to small businesses to help them cover the costs of paid sick leave, this support transcends partisanship and majorities from Ontario’s four major parties are in favour of these subsidies. The poll also concludes that the issue of paid sick leave has taken on greater urgency in the minds of the public as the absence of paid sick leave is seen as having contributed to the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants.”

Cision Newswire, April 16, 2021: “New poll shows vast majority of Ontarians in favour of legislated paid sick days”

UNIFOR, April, 16, 2021: Public Attitudes to Paid Sick Leave in Ontario A Survey of Ontario Residents (21 pages, PDF)

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NDP Leader Asks Trudeau to Consider Invoking Emergencies Act in Ontario

“In a letter sent on April 19, [Jagmeet] Singh asked Justin Trudeau to consider revisiting the declaration of a public welfare emergency under The Emergencies Act. … The act, which has never been used, gives the federal government the power to override provincial laws to ensure ‘safety and security’ during national emergencies. Singh argued that declaring an emergency in Ontario would help ensure a 'more coordinated’ delivery of vaccines to those who need them most, such as essential workers.”

“'Canada is not yet receiving enough vaccines, and vaccines have been slow to arrive. In some places, this means that vaccines are not available to those in danger,’ Singh wrote. 'The most glaring example of this is in the city of Toronto, where the wealthiest neighbourhoods have higher rates of vaccination than neighbourhoods where racialized and working-class people live – and which have higher levels of COVID-19 positivity.’”

“Declaring an emergency in Ontario would also allow workers to take paid sick days and time off to get a vaccine, both of which would help stop the spread of the virus. Singh clarified that he believes the act should only be invoked where it is needed and not Canada-wide. 'Many provinces have taken steps to contain the virus and distribute vaccines to priority populations,’ Singh wrote. 'Ontario is a glaring exception.’”

DH News, April 19, 2021: “NDP leader asks Trudeau to consider invoking Emergencies Act in Ontario,” by Zoe Demarco

Public Health Ontario, updates daily: Ontario COVID-19 Data Tool

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Social Economy


Ontario Has A Better Option Than Paid Sick Days

“A lifetime ago, in March 2020, I wrote a piece with some colleagues about the need to introduce a basic income in Canada targeted to low-income workers during the pandemic. We proposed that low-income workers should get a supplementary basic income whether they were working or not. The rationale was that the lowest-income workers were most likely to either lose their jobs with little access to Employment Insurance, or to continue working outside the home in essential roles. … We referred to this as the ‘double-liability’ of low-wage work during COVID-19.”

“A year into this mess, I still think I had the right idea: a targeted basic income for low-income workers is a superior policy option to legislated paid sick days. We should have three policy objectives during this crisis. The first: facilitating the safe and ongoing operation of businesses that employ low-income workers. The second is ensuring these essential workers have the ability to choose their preferred level of exposure to the virus when working outside the home, and to refuse unsafe work. The third is providing low-income workers an alternative income source so they can afford to stay home from work when they are sick. Legislating paid sick days for workers is not a good policy response to meet any of these objectives.”

“Businesses are already struggling, and shouldn’t be forced to bear the cost of paying workers who can’t work because of illness or fear of the virus. Further, if legislated paid sick days cause worker absenteeism to rise — that is, after all, precisely what it is supposed to do — employers may respond by laying workers off. Under this scenario, workers may be afraid to take their paid sick days for fear of losing their jobs, which defeats the entire purpose. … The other option would be a paid sick leave program funded and administered by the provincial government. I fear this would inevitably devolve into an administrative nightmare.”

“So what does that leave? A targeted basic income supplement paid to all low-income workers, regardless of their work status. This option minimizes power imbalances between businesses and low-income workers by providing the workers with an alternative income source they can count on throughout the crisis.”

The Line, April 20, 2021: “Ontario has a better option than paid sick days,” by Dionne Pohler

The National Post, March 23, 2020: “Opinion: To address the needs of Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis, we need a targeted basic income,” by Dionne Pohler, Kourtney Koebel, Rafael Gomez, Marc-Andre Pigeon and Murray Fulton

Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, February 3, 2021: Labor Markets in Crisis: The Double Liability of Low‐Wage Work During COVID‐19 by Kourtney Koebel and Dionne Pohler

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is not a Model for Basic Income

“[W]ith questions about the post-pandemic era becoming more pressing, we should understand what we can really learn from the CERB – which is to say, nothing about a basic income. Because it lacks all of a basic income’s key features, the CERB is not an effective model for how a BI would be implemented in Canada.”

“As a central policy, a basic income would be universal (available to all), unconditional (no requirements for previous work, etc.), and permanent. The CERB fails on all three counts. It was available only to people with some work history; it was conditional on how you lost your job and whether you were earning more than $1,000 a month; it could be collected for just a short period. To understand the full impact of a BI, we also need to know how it is financed. Universal basic incomes tend to be expensive. Where the taxes to support it fall ultimately determines work decisions, investment plans, family formation and more. Funding of the CERB through a one-time deficit increase means it can tell us nearly nothing about these tax impacts.”

“So can we learn anything from the CERB’s implementation? Our belief is that we are about to learn that the 'trust-then-verify’ approach is problematic. The government will have to choose between an unseemly attempt to extract repayments from some lower-income households and asking other taxpayers to accept that money went where it was not intended. This is likely tolerable in a crisis, but not as a continuing policy. In spite of some claims made by BI proponents, the CERB did not show us that it is easy to get money to people in a responsive way through the tax or EI systems; we are learning the opposite. If we are to use the tax system to deliver benefits in a responsive way, and to supplant provincial social assistance, the system needs to be expanded from once-annual to real-time income reporting, incorporating e-payroll. This is especially true for working-age adults whose incomes vary during the year.”

The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2021: “What can the CERB teach Canada about establishing a universal basic income? Very little,” by David A. Green, Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, Daniel Perrin, and Lindsay M. Tedds

British Columbia Expert Panel on Basic Income, December 28, 2020: Covering All the Basics: Reforms for a More Just Society, by David A. Green, Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, and Lindsay M. Tedds (529 pages, PDF)

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Federal Budget 2021: National Child-Care Program is Ottawa’s Biggest Personal Finance Proposal

“There’s a game-changing win for family finances in the federal government’s budget proposal to deliver child care costing an average $10 per day. … Introducing low-cost child care over the next five years is described in the budget as a productivity measure that works by getting women into the work force. But it’s also a savings for families on a cost that in big cities outside Quebec (where there is already a government daycare program) is known as the second mortgage. Median monthly child-care fees for infants outside Quebec range from $651 per month in Winnipeg to $1,866 in Toronto in the latest annual child-care report by the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. Monthly toddler fees range from $451 in Winnipeg to $1,578 in Toronto. Daycare at $10 per day would be well under $250 per month.”

The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2021: “Federal budget 2021: National child-care program is Ottawa’s biggest personal finance proposal,” by Rob Carrick

Women are leaving work and taking up the burden of care

“Mothers in provinces heavily hit by school closures during the pandemic appear to be stepping away from their careers to provide childcare and homeschooling at a disproportionate rate, government data tied to the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) suggests. Women are applying for the federal benefit in greater numbers than men in all provinces, but the gaps are significantly higher in Ontario and Alberta, two of the provinces hardest hit by the pandemic. In those provinces, twice as many women as men have applied, whereas in Quebec and Manitoba, for example, women make up just 56 per cent of applicants.”

“The high number of women applying for the caregiver benefit in those provinces matches overall labour trends during the pandemic. In 2020, while the average female employment rate across Canada retreated to levels last seen in 1996, both Alberta (1984) and Ontario (1993) have seen even greater retracements, according to [economist, Armine] Yalnizyan.”

The Financial Post, April 19, 2021: “Women are leaving work and taking up the burden of care during pandemic, benefit data suggests,” by Stefanie Marotta

Pediatric Child Health, Summer 2000: A national child care program: Now is the time by Martha Friendly

Canadian Public Policy, August 2020: COVID-19 and the Gender Employment Gap among Parents of Young Children by Yue Qian and Sylvia Fuller

CD Howe Institute Podcast, April 12, 2021: S3 E8: Strengthening Canada’s Childcare System

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