Many jobs simply do not pay the bills on their own

According to Leah Vosko, Canada Research Chair in Feminist Political Economy at York University’s Atkinson School of Social Sciences, with the growth of precarious employment, many jobs simply do not pay the bills on their own, wrote The Globe and Mail April 5, in an article about the future of work and the trend towards contract and part-time work. “These developments contribute to the lowering of the bottom of the labour market,” says Vosko.

From 1989 to 2006, says Vosko, full-time permanent jobs fell to 63 from 67 per cent as a proportion of total employment; the combined ranks of temps and permanent part-timers grew to 22 from 18 per cent. Women, immigrants and young people account for the bulk of that growth but it is affecting the rest of the work force as well. Meanwhile, Canada’s employment standards and programs such as employment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan have failed to respond, Vosko says.

These programs were strengthened in the prosperous era after the Second World War and geared toward full-time permanent employees. They’re largely inaccessible to part-time, temporary and contract workers today, adding to insecurity and the erosion of the quality of work life, wrote the Globe. “If we don’t…extend social entitlements and employment-standards protections to more workers,” Vosko says, “there could be larger public costs.”

Vosko points out that the “standard employment relationship” still accounts for the majority of jobs – about two-thirds of the labour force – but full-time jobs are also increasingly characterized by insecurities. “What we’re seeing is deteriorating conditions across the labour market.”

Brave new digital world to better market NHL

Some might say John Collins has the toughest job in pro sports, wrote the Toronto Star April 7. The former NFL marketing guru must find ways to sell hockey…to Americans. It’s a tough sell. This week, the league will announce the debut of the “Playoff Channel,” a dedicated broadband channel available free to visitors to and a boon to puckheads with a high-speed connection.

Detlev Zwick, professor of sports marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, believes the strategy is more about reaching deeper into the wallets of its existing fans, rather than finding the wallets of new ones. But he also believes the nature of being a fan is changing, with few actually able to afford tickets to see the game live, so the NHL is correct to change with them.

“The NHL is in big trouble in terms of television appeal in the US. It’s a very difficult product to sell,” says Zwick. “For the NHL to say we’ve got to create experiences for existing fan bases, I think it’s really essential.”

Protesters swarm president’s office and Senate

Last Thursday afternoon at York University, after Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) held a rowdy, three-hour-long rally against the Jewish state in Vari Hall, tens of aggressive protesters, waving Palestinian flags, swarmed the president’s office on the ninth floor in an attempt to hand him an “information packet” on "Israeli apartheid" and boycotting of Israeli academic institutions, wrote B’nai Brith Canada’s Jewish Tribune April 1.

Alex Bilyk, director of media relations at York, was heckled and poked fun at while attempting to make a statement on President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri’s behalf outside his office on the need to recognize diversity on campus. The crowd then proceeded to the Senate chamber, which was in session, shouting: “We want Shoukri. Come out Shoukri.”  [At a meeting with Shoukri after Senate ended] the group demanded a forum for debate similar to that held last November at Ryerson.

Asked later whether Shoukri will acquiesce to the demand to allow a debate on an academic boycott of Israel, Bilyk replied: “Dr. Shoukri specifically did not agree to having a debate on an academic boycott or Israeli apartheid. He referenced an idea of ongoing forums to debate student issues, but that was all.”

‘Branding’ an arena can cause furor

Ashwin Joshi, director of the MBA program at Schulich School of Business at York University and a professor of marketing, said rebranding an institution that has served as the backbone of a community can, from a citizen’s perspective, appear to be a rejection of the past, wrote the National Post April 5 in a story about the renaming of an arena in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., after its name-sponsor went bankrupt.

“They’ve treasured the generic name that the particular space had. It’s an organic name that had been used for a couple of generations. There was a comfort level with the name and people don’t like the idea that that name has been commercialized into something new,” Joshi said.

Next generation of Arctic field researchers set to take flight

Jeff Seabrook is in an enviable position – he’s spoiled for challenging questions to tackle for his physics PhD at York University, wrote the Toronto Star April 5.

Does smoke from forest fires in North America spread around the globe? What triggers the vanishing act of ground-level ozone during the Arctic spring? How do dust clouds on Mars affect the water cycle?

The 32-year-old is involved in this intriguing research through Professor Jim Whiteway of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, his doctoral supervisor. The common denominator is the remote sensing device known as lidar: Light Detection and Ranging.

“People scratch their heads at the idea of remote sensing. You’re simply sending photons up into the air where they bounce back. Yet if you know what you’re doing you can get a picture of what’s up there down to parts per billion,” says Seabrook.

That precision is necessary if researchers are to understand one perplexing puzzles of the Arctic: how ozone concentration in the air just above the ground can plunge in a few minutes from 40 parts per billion to less than one. Recording such fluctuations took a custom lidar that would cost roughly $250, 000 to duplicate and required constant babying.

Seabrook says his two Arctic lidar forays here and on Ellesmere Island have proven more interesting than he expected. Next month the Phoenix spacecraft is due to land on Mars carrying a York-designed lidar to measure ice clouds, dust and fog in the planet’s lower atmosphere. “If that works out, it will be the cherry on top,” he says.

His career’s right on track

York alumnus Randy Powell (BAS ‘89) was roaring through life as a full-tilt CEO when a train slammed into his career, wrote The Province in Vancouver April 6. Powell had climbed to a personal peak as a Maple Leaf Foods president in Ontario. Along came Rocky Mountaineer Vacations founder Peter Armstrong to make him a confounding job offer.

Armstrong wanted him to quit as boss of a $2.5-billion-a-year business at Maple Leaf to run a $200-million-a-year rail outfit Powell barely knew. “I said, ‘You’re kind of small for what I’m used to running. Why would I want to do this?’“ Powell recalls.

Shortly after that encounter, Powell rode the Rocky Mountaineer from Calgary to Vancouver. The rail trip dazzled him. What finally snared Powell was Armstrong’s vision of turning the private Vancouver company into a billion-dollar outfit by 2020.

“I thought it was something incredibly special but a bit of a hidden gem,” says Powell, 47. “I thought I might be able to bring a few of my skills along and that we might have a shot at growing it.”

How Romanian-Canadians make the grade

Tereza Barta, a professor and filmmaker in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, who left Romania in 1991, recalls that many families, regardless of income, hired private tutors, both to teach French and English, or to prep kids for entrance exams for university, wrote The Globe and Mail April 5, in a story about why Romanians have the lowest school drop-out rate among ethnic groups. “This was an entrenched mentality. You had to be well prepared,” she says. Barta cites a Romanian joke about this outlook: “My neighbours got a new Mercedes and I got the latest edition of Shakespeare’s plays.”

On air

  • Debra Pepler, a psychologist in York’s Faculty of Health and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about her latest study on bullying, on CBC Radio Thunder Bay April 4.