Making labour law fit the new economy

Harry Arthurs tells the story of a Canadian trucker who wasn’t paid for the 12 hours his rig was stuck in traffic at the US border, begins a Nov. 9 feature in the Ottawa Citizen’s “Trapped & Temporary” series on the changing labour market. Is he an employee who is owed wages, or a self-employed entrepreneur who must swallow the loss? “Here I have two competing visions,” says the former York president, now heading the first thorough review of Canadian labour standards in 40 years. The trucker dilemma is among a mountain of competing visions, contradictory advice and conflicting proposals that Arthurs heard during 10 months of public hearings that ended in late October. The hearings will form the basis of his report to Labour Minister Joe Fontana on Part III of the Canada Labour Code. The report is scheduled for submission in June.

In an interview, Arthurs, a lawyer and professor emeritus at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said there is no consensus in Canada yet on whether self-employed and other non-standard workers of the new economy should be protected by government labour standards on hours of work, overtime, vacation pay, severance and other long-held minimum working standards. Still, Arthurs singles out a handful of values that will guide his extensive recommendations. The value he heard about most frequently from employers, he said, is “flexibility”. The other values he cited are: decent, respectful and fair treatment of workers; preserving as much autonomy as possible for employers and employees to make their own arrangements; and clarity in the wording of new labour standards law.

Satisfaction higher with merit pay, study says

Universities that pay professors based on merit have more productive researchers and higher levels of student satisfaction, compared to those faculty paid based on years of service, says a new study by the C.D. Howe Institute, reported the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 9 in its series “Trapped & Temporary” on the changing labour market. The survey by the conservative think-tank concludes the 17 Canadian universities with seniority-based pay – among which it listed York University – should move to a salary system based on the academic performance of their faculty. The study argues the merit pay at 22 universities across the country increases productivity, improves education quality and holds professors more accountable to students. It argues that seniority-based pay, which guarantees annual salary increases for unionized professors, regardless of performance, rewards mediocrity while penalizing star faculty.

Retired football coach carries on

In a Nov. 9 story about the encouragement Nobby Wirkowski, a legend in the Canadian Football League, gives to young high school players, the Toronto Star reported that the retired quarterback who led the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup win in 1952 left the pros in 1967 to start up a football program at York University. He spent 12 years as coach and also as a professor before retiring.

On air

  • Edmund Fowler, a retired political science professor from York’s Glendon College, commented on the implications of municipal amalgamation, on “CKCO News” in Kitchener-Waterloo Nov. 8.