Raising the Minimum Wage: Why Some Say it's Good for Canada

Ontario’s Premier Kathlene Wynne was in the news this past week, with some hailing and others criticizing her announcement on the minimum wage.

The government said that they will phase in this increase over the next 18 months with the minimum wage rising to $14 by January 2018. It will be up to $15 by 2019.

Critics have said that raising the minimum wage will crush small businesses and destroy jobs, especially for young people in this economy that is already tough for them. They also said it will force businesses to raise their prices.

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But economic experts point out that raising the minimum wage is actually good for business and it is time for change. Here are some reasons why:

Consumer Consumption:

According to Macleans Magazine, household purchases account for 57 per cent of Canadian GDP and helps to drive the economy. Rising housing costs across the country have eaten up a lot of disposable income for all Canadians. They pointed out that when lower income earners see a rise in their income they will spend it locally, boosting the economy from the bottom up.

Productivity:

Increasing wages has been shown to increase productivity in workers. A study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that higher wages motivate employees to work harder, leads to lower turnover, enhances quality of service and attracts more capable workers.

Big Business:

When it comes to larger business, those who support a higher minimum wage point out that low wages maximize profits for these big businesses. Macleans points out that big businesses complain about higher minimum wage, but don’t make the same statements about the growing compensation for senior management.

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It’s Time:

Ontario is not alone in there commitment to raising the minimum wage. They join Nova Scotia, Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba who has hinted a raise. Statistics Canada has found that Canada has outpaced the United States in its reliance on low wage work and Ontario has the highest reliance in Canada.


CEO Pay On The Rise Once Again

After the holiday season, most Canadians will return to their jobs and get back to the usual routine.

When most workers were just about to take their lunch break on Jan. 3, Canada’s highest paid elite group of CEOs will earn the same amount average working person’s income for all of 2017.

It’s a shocking stat, that shows the difference between the super wealthy and the average Canadian.

The report was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and found that the 100 richest CEOs in Canada took in an average of $9.5 million in 2015. This number includes ‘salaries, bonuses, share grants and stock options, the report said.

The highest paid Canadian CEO in the report was J. Michael Pearson, CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who collected $182.9 million.

The report also found that CEO compensation in Canada has increased by 178 per cent between 1998 and 2015.

One issue pointed out by the author of the report Hugh Mackenzie is that board of directors have the authority to ‘set compensation’. He suggested having this decision be more accountable to shareholders rather than a board of directors.

Political economist Robert Reich suggested having a tax penalty on CEOs who earned more than a ‘given ratio’ to average pay. He said that the increase in average workers pay would simulate the economy.

Having a fair and steady wage is so important to quality of life both inside and outside of the workplace. With the rise of precarious work, it is so important to know you have rights when it comes to your wage.

Having a union representing you means you have a guaranteed fair wage and someone to look out for you. Unions also set the bar for all workers, non-union and union, for fair wages.

With rising CEO pay in Canada, it becomes ever more important to make sure you are guaranteed a fair wage.


CEDA Industrial Services Employees Locked Out

The holiday season is supposed to be a time when you celebrate with friends and family. You look back on all of the things you are thankful for throughout the year, and think about what you are hopeful for in the year to come.

It is about giving and kindness, laughter and joy.

It is something that is especially needed in Fort McMurray this year. Between the downturn in the economy and the devastating fires, the city has been hit hard.

Now, the holiday season just got a lot harder for a group of hard-working employees at CEDA Industrial Services in Fort McMurray.

Just two weeks before Christmas, CEDA has locked our members out.

Now they are left wondering what will happen to their jobs in an economy that is already suffering.

We were served a lock out notice on Dec. 8, locking us out at 4 p.m. on Dec. 11th.

However, we managed to convince the employer to return to the table on Dec.13 and they subsequently rescinded the lock out to today at noon.

What makes this even more frustrating for these members is that we have been trying to establish their first collective agreement with the employer since July 2015.

For over a year, we have been fighting so that these members get the respect they deserve in the workplace.

We acknowledge that a first collective does take a bit longer with a new group, but to take over a year is absolutely unacceptable.

This is a prime example why first agreement language has to be introduced into the labour code. Employers shouldn’t be able to play the system, which currently favours them in the sense that they can drag the process. This can potentially result in some new members losing confidence in their unions.

Following the initial lock out notice, our members voted 100% in favour of strike action. This was a move that was essential to preserve the terms of their working relationship and hold on to the hard fought clauses that we attained during a process that is now entering its 17th month.

On Dec. 13 every unresolved issue with the exception of sub-contracting, and one employee with a slight wage differential, had been agreed to. In fact, the union had agreed to the employer’s previous language on subcontracting presented in good faith during bargaining in August of this year.

Despite this, the employer drove forward with language and a thought pattern on subcontracting that would threaten our members job security and the well-being of their families.

This collective agreement is not about wages – it is about respect for rights in the workplace. Employees have even been willing to take concessions in their wages and the union structured a plan to tie future wage increases to the economy, a plan that both parties had agreed to during negotiations.

After everything these employees have been through this year, they don’t deserve this from CEDA Industrial Services. Especially around the holiday season.

Please show you support for our locked-out members as they wait for a fair collective agreement. Being locked out on the street is no way to start out 2017.


Job Quality On The Decline, But Unions Offer A Way Up

As we head into 2017, a new report has found that the quality of employment in Canada is falling.

Although headlines recently have focused on the impact precarious employment is having on young people, this study shows that all age groups are affected by the quality of work in our country.

The report found that the loss in job quality has been stead over the past 10 years and the share of workers who are paid below the average wage has risen over the years to just under 61 per cent in 2015.

It also found that the gap in wages is still growing. Although the minimum wage is rising to help the poorest workers, it is the gap between middle and high-income people that is growing.

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So what exactly does a ‘low quality’ job mean?

CIBC economist Benjmin Tai explained to CBC news that it means more people are working part time, are self employed and are in low wage jobs.

He pointed out that jobs with above average pay will continue to have a good wage, that is not where new jobs are being created.

And this affects people of all ages.

Tai found that young people and Canadians over 55 are stuck in the low-wage job sector. Even among workers aged 25 to 54, over half had jobs that paid between 50 and 100 per cent of the average wage.

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Being a union member greatly increases the quality of your job in a number of ways including wage, benefits and safety.

Union members earn more across the board with members on average earning $5.28 more per hour. It also helps with gender parity with women earning 35 per cent more when they are with a union. You workers earn 27 per cent more.

A collective agreement makes sure you have job security, fair hours and benefits. Being a member improves your quality of life both inside and outside of the workplace.

 


Precarious Work In Canada – Is It Here To Stay?

Precarious work is a topic that has been brought up quite often this year, and is a reality for far too many people in Canada.

Precarious is officially defined as people who ‘who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights.’  Some of these rights include safe working conditions, benefits and fair wages.

On Oct. 22 the federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau told Canadians that they should get used to the ‘job churn’. In other words, Morneau was telling Canadians that precarious work, especially for young people, was here to stay for a while and we as a country have to prepare for that.

Not all people feel that way.

Author Nora Loreto told CBC that she believes Morneau’s comments are trying to make precarious work seem to be the new normal.

"What's happening here is Morneau is trying to make something that should not be palatable — be palatable to young people, to tell them to expect that their life is going to be a struggle, that they will not have the 'good job,'" she explained.

Many experts also point out that the government can do more to change the situation, and if they do not it could create higher costs for the economy.

Fiona McQuarrie, associate professor in the school of business at the University of the Fraser Valley, pointed out that high turnover requires employers to invest in recruiting, hiring and training. Beyond that, employees working in precarious positions often suffer stress and are not able to make major financial investments.

In these precarious jobs people lack the ability to join a union, which can improve not only the quality of life at work, but home life as well. Unionized employees have better wages, more job security, benefits and the comfort of knowing they have support in the workplace.

This ‘job churn’ is something that is affecting our country right now, and together we have to decide how we want the future of employment to be in Canada.


What is Fairness in the Workplace?

Fairness shouldn’t be just something you hope for in the workplace. Fairness should be a standard, a staple for survival like food, clothing or shelter.

Not only can fairness at work be a rare commodity in some spaces, but studies have shown employees who perceive workplaces as unfair are more likely to leave jobs -- jobs they can’t afford to leave.

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Fairness in the workplace is not as black and white as you might think. Being underpaid or yelled at by your boss daily are more obvious examples of abuse at work, but the struggle for employee justice goes much deeper.

What factors contribute to fairness in the workplace?

Recent studies have found that poor treatment in the workplace, or “workplaces perceived to be less fair,” are corrosive to work environments and employee morale.

Things that factor into employee perception of fairness on the job:

  • Opportunities for career development
  • Work environment
  • Conflicts with management
  • Lack of challenging work
  • Lack of recognition
  • Proper direction of company/organization

How can being part of a union help?

Research evidence reports workers feel healthier, and contribute a higher level of energy and effort on the job when workplaces are perceived to be fair.

With the economy in Alberta (even more so with the current wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray), it’s increasingly important that workers are respected and treated justly in all arenas of work.

Teamsters 362 fights for fair workplace laws and standards. We collectively bargain on your behalf for what should be non-negotiable rights -- safe working conditions, fair wages, job security...the list goes on. And with high career and environmental stresses weighing heavy on Albertans, Local 362 is putting more focus than ever on mental health supports for employees.

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If you want to have happy and healthy employees -- if you want to be a happy and healthy employee -- workplaces need to be fair. We all need to fight for fair.

To see what Teamsters 362 is all about, visit: teamsters362.com


How to Prepare Yourself in the Face of Job Loss

With 2015 the worst year for job loss in Alberta since 1982, job security is still a fear for many Albertans.

Even if you know it’s coming, no one is ever fully prepared for that awful moment when the big boss calls you into the office and gives you the, “Thank you for your service” speech. Sometimes the speech is skipped altogether.

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But there are plans workers can put in place when termination seems imminent. Here are some strategies to protect workers in the case of looming job loss:

1.     Have a resume ready

The first thing most people who are laid off are tasked with doing is finding a new job, which is no easy feat — especially in today’s economic climate. Even if you currently have a steady job, it doesn’t hurt to iron out your resume.

Resumes should be polished, up-to-date and include your current job and references. The Alberta government offers resume review services  and most municipalities offer local services as well.

2.     Legal rights

In the case of job loss, many employers will offer settlements or severance packages. Even though they might look fair, or even more than expected, it is still your right as a worker to investigate your worth.

Contacting a lawyer or accessing social service supports such as Alberta Works can give you a better sense of what you are entitled to as a worker and if you should take the settlement offered to you. Doing research beforehand can avoid last minute scrambles for legal aid in the case of job loss.

3.     Weighing your options

Especially if you work in the oil and gas industry, there is a possibility you may have to look down other avenues if cutbacks are pending. Even though you may have been hired for one gig, chances are you have skills for many other jobs.

The Alberta government has all sorts of career planning resources easily accessible online. In this economic climate, it never hurts to have a plan B.

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4.     Are you protected?

Depending on where you work, being part of a labour union can be a lifesaver when facing job loss. Whether you’re supporting a family or starting out your career alone, getting laid off is not something any one wants to deal with alone.

Having a union to back you up when facing cut backs or job loss is so important. It is also a great place to start when understanding you rights as a worker and how collective bargaining can protect you. Being part of a union can also protect your seniority and qualification for all classifications in the workplace.


Survivor Guilt: How Layoffs Can Change The Workplace For Those Who Remain

It may not be something you think about all the time, but your coworkers can often become a second family. You see them almost every day and they become part of your life and even sometimes close friends.

With the downturn in the Alberta economy, more and more people have been experiencing layoffs and work ‘families’ have been torn apart.

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Something that is not talked about enough when it comes to layoffs is what psychologists have termed ‘survivors guilt.’  There are a number of ways people deal with the layoff of a co-worker, but there are some symptoms that managers and fellow coworkers should be aware of.

Struggle with guilt

There is the thought of ‘why was that person let go and not me?’ that is so often associated with survivors guilt. It can be a confusing time because of the relief workers feel when they are not let go, but then the grief they feel for their fellow coworkers. When that coworker is laid off, it can feel like the loss of a friend or loved one and that can have an extreme emotional toll on individuals and the entire office.

Psychologists have pointed out that people with survivors guilt may also suffer from emotional contagion, known as the tendency ‘pick up your laid-off colleagues’ feelings of gloom and desperation.' This can be especially hard for union workers who may have a 'recall right' in their collective agreement, meaning 'the right of an employee on a layoff to be called back to work by his or her employer under a term or condition of employment.' Seeing them again may only add to that guilt and the stress felt by people still there.

Increase to workload and burnout

Not only are people dealing with the loss of a coworker, but they are often expected to pick up the extra workload and inherit a lot of new responsibilities from the people who have left. There can be a situation where the person may have been removed, but all of their workload remains only adding to the stress of the people who still work there.

Anxiety and Pressure 

Once layoffs start happening, the pressure to keep a job creates a cut-throat culture.  With cuts looming throughout Alberta, many employees can't help but wonder if they are next. This can lead to anxiety and a complete change in identity for the entire company. This can sometimes be more damaging than what the person who was laid-off may feel themselves.

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Expected to Jump Back in the Saddle

When coworkers are laid off, there is no time for grieving the loss. You have to get back to work, especially if your workload is increased. However, the anxiety and stress that people feel from survivors guilt can often lead to ‘reduced commitment and productivity.’ The fear of being the next one to go can cause many to ‘freeze up’ and get less work done or have to work longer hours to get it done.

If you or someone you know is really struggling with anxiety or depression during these economic times it is important to reach out for help. In Calgary you can call the Distress Centre 24 hour crisis line at 403-266-4357 and in Edmonton 780-482- 4357.


Mental Health Support Critical During Tough Economic Times

Mental health in the workplace has been receiving much needed attention in the past year across Canada. The issue has reached crisis level, with numbers showing that the economic cost is at least $50 billion per year in Canada.

Stress levels in the workplace have been high in Alberta where the economy has been hit hard and now we need to look even more closely at increasing mental health support.

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More People Are Looking For Help

According to experts working in Alberta’s mental health community, there has been a ‘significant increase in people looking for their services since the downturn in the energy industry.’  They pointed out that they not only have people contacting them who were laid off, but also see people looking for services who feel guilty for still having a job.

Domestic Violence Expected To Rise

Research recently released from the University of Alberta, has found that rate of domestic violence is expected to rise if the economy continues to struggle, finding that interpersonal violence can be caused by the stress everyday living conditions. Researchers see it as a public-health problem, especially with Alberta having some of the highest rates of interpersonal violence of any province in Canada.

Increase In Suicide Rate

At the end of last year the chief medical examiners office released a report that 30 per cent more Albertans took their lives in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Experts say that that number far exceeds anything they could have expected and if the trend continues there could be over 600 suicides in Alberta this year.

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These issues not only effect those who are going through job losses but friends, families and coworkers around them. Many unions have taken on the initiative to get more help including Teamsters 362 and Teamsters Canada both ran a #MakeitMandatory mental health awareness campaign urging policy makers to pay more attention to mental health support in the workplace.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can call the distress centre at 403.266.4357.