Countries With A Higher Level Of Income Inequality Are Unhappy, And Unions Could Be The Answer

Dealing with income inequality on a daily basis can make a person very unhappy, but now it has been linked to making entire countries feel depressed.

As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer – people are feeling pretty down, especially in countries with the biggest disparity between the extremely wealthy and those who are experiencing poverty.

A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that ‘the more income is concentrated in the hands of a few, the more likely individuals are to report lower levels of life satisfaction and more negative daily emotional experiences.’

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They found that in countries where the richest hold most of the country’s income that people were more likely to feel ‘stressed’ or ‘angry.’

Psychologically this could be because people feel as if there is little chance of ‘moving up the ladder.’

And Canada is included in the list – like many other countries income inequality it is being driven by a concentration of wealth at the top, with the top CEOs earning 184 times the pay of an average working Canadian, per year.

So what can be done about the unhappiness found in these countries? We can try and eliminate income inequality, but that will not happen over night.

Another solution to increasing life satisfaction is, according to studies, joining a union.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, researchers used data from five different years between 1980 and the mid-2000′s to study the effect of union membership on life satisfaction.

They found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

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It is easy to see why people would be happier in unions when it comes to overall happiness in the workplace – ­ they have better wages, work better hours, have better job security and good benefits.

Income inequality is a complicated issue, but what is clear is that it is having negative impact on people around the world, including Canada. Working to eliminate the huge gap between the top earners and the rest of the country is a work in progress, but unions are committed to making sure their members are able to have a better quality of life both inside and outside the workplace.

The Pay Gap Between CEOs And The Average Worker Continues To Grow

Last week the top earning CEOs in Canada were announced and the numbers were pretty shocking for the average working Canadian.

According to the annual report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s highest-paid CEOs will have earned the average workers salary of around $48,000 by lunch on a Monday.

They took home an average of $8.96 million, 184 times the pay of an average working Canadian, per year.

But according to a world-renowned industrial organizational psychologist Edwin Locke, the reason people are angry about these findings is motivated by only one thing – envy.

He explained in an interview with CBC news that the ratio is subjective and simply based on emotion, adding that a good CEO is ‘worth his weight in gold.’

The author the of the report Hugh Mackenzie pointed out in the same article that the large difference is due to a market that is ‘out of control’ and ‘dysfunctional.’

A report by Bloomberg found that the difference between what CEOs get paid as compared to the lowest employees in their company has increased by 1,000 per cent since 1950 – a staggering number.

Mackenzie described the growth as a 'visible manifestation of growing income inequality in Canada, adding that it is not sustainable.

"I just don't think it's sustainable. I think that sooner or later public concern about income inequality is going to start to matter politically and something will have to happen," he said in the interview.

 The current system of compensation is driven by boards of directors who are often a CEO themselves, according to Mackenzie.

 "There's an element of circularity to the system that I think just tends to keep salaries up regardless of what's happening to the performance of the company or the state of the economy," he said.

And the same type of compensation for the average worker has not been rising at the same rate.

According to the Toronto Star, compensation was up 22 per cent in 2014 since the survey first started in 2008, and the salary for the average Canadian rose by only 11 per cent.

Also troubling was how much the gender pay gap still exists in Canada – for average Canadian workers and CEOs, with the average CEO in the top 100 making 237 times the pay of an average woman.

The growing inequality between Canada’s ultra rich and the average working Canadian is rising, and Canadians are taking notice.

Top 5 Earning CEOs in Canada:  

1.  John Chen – BlackBerry Ltd.  

Base Salary: $341,452

Total Compensation: $89.7 million

2. Donald Walker – Magna International Inc.

Base Salary: $358,924

Total Compensation: $23.4 million

3. Gerald Schwartz – Onex Corp.

Base Salary: $1.4 million

Total Compensation: $21.1 million

4. Hunter Harrison – Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.

Base Salary: $2.4 million

Total Compensation: $17.6 million

5. Mark Thierer – Catamaran Corp

Base Salary: $1.3 million

Total Compensation: $16.3 million

PTSD In The Workplace: Canadian Legislators Are Taking Notice

Everyone has experienced some sort of trauma in their lives – the loss of a loved one, a serious accident or an incident of violence. Some are able to mentally deal with the stress of the situation, but others go on to experience serious mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A sense of helplessness, flashbacks, panic attacks and depression are just some of the symptoms of this devastating illness. It is hard enough to deal with at home, but at the workplace it can be even more difficult.

Stigma still surrounds mental health in the workplace, and if someone with PTSD does not seek help it can lead to addiction, chronic pain and even self-injury.

But things are starting to change in 2016 with more attention being paid to PTSD in the workplace.

As of Jan. 1 Manitoba recognized PTSD as a work-related disease, marking the first time that PTSD has been included as an occupational disease by a Workers Compensation Board in Canada.

"When a worker who has experienced a traumatic event on the job is diagnosed with PTSD, the Workers Compensation Board will presume his or her condition was caused by the job, making it much easier to access supports, treatment and compensation," explained Premier Greg Selinger in a release.

It will be the first time ever that it will be presumed that PTSD is workplace related, unless proven otherwise.

Alberta already has legislation in place, which allows first responders to receive compensation for PTSD without having to prove their condition is work-related and was the first province in Canada to provide that type of coverage.

However, when Alberta’s legislation was brought forward many argued about what exactly a first responder was, and said the legislation should include social workers and correctional officers.

Manitoba’s legislation is significant because it applies to all workers, not just first responders.

Another province has also started down the road to recognize PTSD.

It was recently announced that Ontario too could be the next province to have legislation around PTSD, but just for first responders. Ontario requires first responders to prove they were exposed to the trauma that caused PTSD while at work.

With Justin Trudeau pledging $3 million dollars towards mental health in Canada, hopefully the trend of taking mental health in the workplace seriously will continue.

No one should have to suffer in silence when it comes to mental health.

Find Out How Unions Make Health And Safety A Top Priority In The Workplace

When you walk out your door and leave for work, there is nothing worse than having a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. Whether you are dealing with harassment, bullying or unsafe work conditions, no worker should ever have to fear for their health or safety. Whether your job has you doing daily heavy lifting, driving on the road or sitting at a desk – it is your right to feel safe and no employer should be able to take that away from you.

But the truth is some workplaces don't always see their employees mental and physical health as a top priority.

Unions have fought for health and safety for decades, many labour laws that are taken for granted today were made possible by unions.

No one should ever have to feel unsafe at the workplace, and this is how unions may be able to help you if you do.

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1.     Leadership

Leadership is not only important in a workplace for productivity, but also for safety. Studies have shown that by focusing on having safety leaders, there will be an impact on injury rates and overall safety performance – both physical and mental. A great example of this within a union is a shop steward – a fellow coworker who represents the union and is the go-to person for any concerns in the workplace. They are able to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace and are available if employees feel that they need to report any health or safety violations.

2.     Training

Unions offer several training courses, including ones that deal directly with safety. These courses teach members how to reduce injuries at work, how to report injuries and develop a positive safety culture at work. This can range from Transportation of Dangerous Goods First Aid Construction Safety Training System (C.S.T.S.), to forklift training, to mental health anti-stigma training.

3.     Physical Health

When it comes to physical health and safety in the workplace, what has become known as the ‘union effect’ has created a safer work environment. Researchers have found in both North America and internationally, that where there is a union present, workplaces injury rates are lower than non union. In Canada a recent study found that unionized construction sites were 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries.

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4.     Mental Health

Health and safety in the workplace does not just mean physical well being, but mental as well. No one should ever have to feel stigma coming forward about a mental health issue or about reporting bullying or harassment at work. Mental health cost the Canadian economy $51 billion dollars last year, and is something unions have been trying to bring more attention to. Teamsters Local 362 and Teamsters Canada recently ran a large ‘Make It Mandatory’ campaign, urging the government to make mental health support in the workplace mandatory across Canada.

Alberta NDP Government And The Minimum Wage Debate

When the NDP won the Alberta Provincial election, the entire country seemed pretty surprised – this was the first change in power in Alberta since 1971.

With the change came a lot of promises to Albertans, perhaps most controversial of all was the pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

And heading into 2016, the controversy has returned with an internal document that was obtained by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. CFIB spokesman Richard Truscott said the document warns of job losses due to the hike.

According to the Calgary Herald, the note also said that ‘more research needs to be done’ before raising the wage and ‘Alberta will essentially be sailing into uncharted waters at this point.’

With low oil prices in the province, many groups, business owners and concerned Albertans have called for the NDP government to re-evaluate the decision.

Alberta lost 63,500 jobs in the first eight months of this year, according to government data.

Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP have said from the beginning that the raise would ‘create more jobs and ensure workers in the province receive a living wage.’

In October, the NDP raised the minimum wage from $10.20 per hour, the lowest minimum wage in the country along with Saskatchewan, to $11.20 per hour which makes it the third highest.

Those in favour of the increase have said that ‘cost of living has outstripped wage growth’ and a living wage would allow workers to cover basic human needs. They pointed out that raising the minimum wage would have positive effects for the overall community.

Jobs that are not unionized in the province can sometimes be precarious, with unstable hours and wages and no benefits. Those who are hired on a contract basis, and have no one to back them up when it comes to layoffs may see their jobs go first in the struggling economy.

Notley did say last week that the government may not raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour by 2018 if the economy remains as it is.

“Going forward we’re going to continue to get the best information we can. We’re also going to evaluate the state of the economy,” Notley said.