Expect arbitration to end Toronto strike, prof says

An end to Toronto’s strike will not be easily negotiated by Mayor David Miller but will more likely come from provincially mandated arbitration, reported the National Post June 23. The drama comes from whether Premier Dalton McGuinty plays his hand quickly, as in the 16-day city strike in 2002, or takes his time, as he did with the three-month York University standoff.

David Doorey, a professor of employment and labour law in York’s School of Administrative Studies, expects the province to step in with back-to-work legislation and appoint an arbitrator to get the deal done.

"At some point, and you are already seeing it, there will be pressure on the [Ontario] government to step in," Doorey said. "The city doesn’t have any authority over this, all the city can do is ask the province to enact back-to-work legislation."

The province ordered unionists back to work in Toronto’s 2002 city strike after a 16-day impasse, and similar legislation ended York University’s nearly two-month standoff in January.

McGuinty will have to walk a fine line, however, Doorey said. He gets a lot of union support and could upset his supporters if he rushes mediation. At the same time, he could be on the hook if things get too far out of hand.

Doorey said arbitrators tend to look at comparable resolutions in an impasse. But in the central case of the union’s 18 bankable sick days, a rare benefit in the private sector, none may be readily available.

  • The province won’t immediately act to order striking Toronto city workers – including garbage collectors – back onto the job, with the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty preferring the two sides reach a deal themselves, wrote The St. Catharines Standard June 23. But if the Grits’ patience fails, it won’t be for the first time. Twice already in just over a year the Liberals have called MPPs back to Queen’s Park for emergency sessions ordering workers back to the job – a two-day strike by TTC workers in April 2008, and then the strike by contract faculty at York University in January.

Preventing absenteeism key to corporate health during pandemic

A new report on corporate risk and pandemic preparedness touts the benefits associated with having business plans in place for a global outbreak of flu, likening them to insurance against a calamity like fire, reported The Canadian Press June 23.

The report by Amin Mawani, an accounting professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, says companies that are capable of preventing absenteeism if the current H1N1 flu pandemic leads to more serious illness in Canada this fall will be well positioned to take customers and market share from those that can’t.

They may enjoy higher stock prices and cheaper credit because financial markets tend to reward firms that report steady profits and cash flows, said the report, released Monday at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto.

The report highlights the findings of a round table held last month, where managers from nine major corporations discussed their practices and plans for dealing with an influenza pandemic.

"Investing in pandemic preparedness is analogous to investing in insurance. You cannot buy fire insurance after the fire,” Mawani said in an interview. "Most of us have fire insurance, but we might not have pandemic insurance. And by pandemic insurance, I mean just the investments required to plan and prepare and be ready if something like this happens to your organization. You have a business continuity plan that allows you to continue producing profits and safeguarding your employees.”

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic June 11 because of the new strain of H1N1 that’s circulating, and this report suggests the probability of a second, perhaps more lethal, wave of virus outbreak in the fall in the Northern Hemisphere may be higher than eight per cent.

The focus of the round table report is employee absenteeism. If 15 to 30 per cent of employees are absent due to an influenza pandemic, it could erode profits by 15 to 30 per cent or more, depending on the organization, Mawani said.

One option would be to allow employees to work on their computers from home, but he warns that if the rates of people doing this are high, then broadband capacity may not be sufficient for productive work.

"Second, if you have critical employees, just because you’re at home doesn’t mean they’re safer. In fact, sometimes the safest place may be at work. So to really keep them safe you need them to be protected, and one of the options for that, among other things, is antiviral medication,” he said. The report said federal and provincial government agencies should consider issuing guidelines to corporations on stockpiling antivirals to protect their employees.

  • In a June 23 news story on the death of a 6-year-old Brampton girl from swine flu, the Toronto Star reported that Amin Mawani, an accounting professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, told a conference on disaster management that it’s advisable for companies to take such measures to curb employee absenteeism and protect profits in the event that a second, more severe wave of the virus strikes in the fall. "Pandemic planning can be viewed as insurance," he said.

One state is no solution, write Concordia profs

A conference with the objective of advancing a so-called "one-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began Monday at York University, wrote Professor Emeritus Stephen Scheinberg and Professor Neil Caplan, of Concordia University, both members of the Montreal Board of Canadian Friends of Peace, in the National Post June 23. The conference’s title – Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace – is misleadingly broad: though a handful of respectable speakers have been added to the program in an effort to cultivate some legitimacy, the presence at the event of non-academic advocates of this extreme premise is evidence of the original political objective of the organizers.

The one-state solution has been around, in a variety of forms, for almost 80 years. Its first formulation – the theory of a binational state – was the product of a handful of liberal, humanitarian Jews in British Mandatory Palestine. These were honourable individuals, who tried to envision Palestine/Israel as a land shared by two peoples. They wanted to create constitutional arrangements to protect the autonomy of separate but equal Arab and Jewish communities. Unfortunately, their proposal was drowned in a chorus of demands from the political leadership on both sides.

The current revival of interest in a one-state solution can be attributable largely to the failure of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to achieve real progress toward a Palestinian state. The historic 1993 Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization mutual recognition treaty and the Oslo peace process led many to hope for an imminent solution based on two states living side by side. The shattering of those dreams in the wake of the July 2000 Camp David summit, and the eruption of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September of that year, has led some to abandon hope for a two-state solution. Their flirtation with the one-state option is born of this despair.

We believe that frustration with the lack of progress toward a two-state solution does not provide a sufficient basis for advocating a one-state solution. Current calls for a one-state solution mask a desire for the disappearance of Israel as a Jewish state. They not only reinforce the demands of fundamentalist groups like Hamas, but also cater to demagogic seekers of "justice" and anti-Israel campus groups.

In contrast to this armchair radicalism, a recent poll indicates that 74 per cent of Palestinians and 78 per cent of Israelis would support a two-state solution. Our view, as activists and scholars who have been engaged for many years in promoting peace and understanding, is that the resurrection of the one-state doctrine is highly inflammatory. Despite its apparent popularity in some circles, this "solution" is without doubt a recipe for the continuation of this 130-year-old conflict.

Misleading ads create rise in skeptical consumers

Advertising Standards Canada, one of the agencies responsible for regulating advertising in this country, describes 2008 as the year of the skeptical consumer, writes Peter Darke, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, in the National Post June 23.

This was in response to the record number of advertisements it found to be misleading in its latest annual report – a notable increase over 2006 (29 per cent) and 2007 (31 per cent). This increase is actually part of a larger trend in misleading or inappropriate advertising not only in Canada but also in the United States. Not surprisingly, this trend is associated with an increase in consumer suspicion, which in turn is part of a larger trend of lower trust in business, government and public institutions over the past 30 years or more.

Some suspicion among consumers is healthy. It causes consumers to more carefully scrutinize advertising claims and sales pitches. Moreover, increased skepticism among consumers would ultimately be expected to weed cheaters out of the market in favour of more honest firms selling truly superior products at reasonable prices. However, research I have conducted in partnership with Laurence Ashworth and Robin Ritchie on this topic suggests deceptive advertising tends to lead to a more problematic form of suspicion – what we call defensive suspicion.

Specifically, we show that consumers who feel misled by an advertisement are not only more suspicious of further ads from the same advertiser, but are also suspicious of ads that come from completely different advertisers in different markets. Firms that have worked hard to establish a respected brand name or reputation may feel insulated from the secondary effects misleading claims can have on advertising. But our research shows even the most reputable brands in the Canadian market are susceptible to the effects of defensive suspicion generated by the misdeeds of other less scrupulous firms. The reason? Misleading advertising and defensive suspicion cause consumers to stereotype marketers as "all the same". Hence, the misdeeds of a few undermine the effectiveness of advertising as a whole.

So what should regulators do about the recent increases in deceptive advertising claims? Advertising regulation is intended to ensure fair competition in the marketplace as well as to maintain consumer confidence. Given recent polls suggesting that the advertising industry is among the least trusted in Canada, clearly something needs to be done to restore the consumer’s faith in advertising. Regulators and the courts have a number of tools at their disposal when it comes to dealing with misleading advertising claims, including ordering the firm to amend the claim or to stop making it altogether, imposing fines and/or ordering corrective advertising.

Osgoode grad named New Brunswick minister of justice

Moncton North Liberal MLA Mike Murphy (LLM ’02) has finally landed his dream job, reported Moncton’s Times & Transcript June 23. Murphy was one of seven cabinet ministers who saw their responsibilities change with Premier Shawn Graham’s latest cabinet shuffle. And the province’s newest attorney general and justice minister isn’t shedding any tears over leaving his former role as health minister. Murphy has spoken openly about his desire to become attorney general since the Liberals formed government in 2006.

Murphy has a law degree from the University of New Brunswick as well as a master’s degree in law from York University. He practised law for 23 years and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2007.

Investors may pay stiff price for Manulife’s pride

Who recognized the trouble such a big, proud company as Manulife Financial could get its investors into by refusing to hedge or otherwise insure the capital and income guarantees it was providing to legions of stock and bond market investors in Canada, the United States and Japan, asked the Toronto Star June 23.

The tentative conclusion reached by some leading class-action lawyers and investigators at the Ontario Securities Commission is that not enough of Manulife’s stockholders knew ahead of time. After coasting above the rest of the financial sector for much of last year, Manulife’s stock price was slashed in half in the final quarter. It had to draw down a $3 billion loan. Analysts started asking about its hedging practices and whether it needed to raise more capital. Then came billion-dollar losses in its latest two financial quarters.

Clearly, various experts were well aware that Manulife was taking on considerable risk as its sales of so-called guaranteed living benefits or variable annuities soared over the past few years.

While consulting to Manulife, Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, began urging financial advisers, starting in 2007, to ask how companies were hedging those guarantees. "I am simply arguing that the living benefits arms race is leading to promises and guarantees that might become difficult to keep," Milevsky wrote for Researchmag.com.

Torn between the strip joint and the pulpit

Tracey Erin Smith made her showbiz debut in the nude – she was six months old, and had been cast in a TV commercial for diapers. Some decades later, she is still, in a sense, interested in nakedness, both physical and psychological, began a Globe and Mail review June 23 of her one-woman show, The Burning Bush! – running at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Saturday. It deals with a central character, Rabbi Barbara Baumawitz, torn between two seemingly antithetical temples, the strip joint and the pulpit.

Pole gymnastics aside, Smith’s own story bears a certain kinship with The Burning Bush! plotline. A graduate of Vancouver’s Studio 58 theatre school, she enrolled at York University in January 1999 to finish her undergraduate degree in Judaic studies. One course in, it became clear that earning rabbinical ordination was going to be a long slog.  

On air

  • Paul Delaney, senior lecturer of physics and astronomy at York, discussed the second postponement of NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour, on the “Jeff Allan Show” on CKGL-AM, Kitchener, June 19.
  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed stores charging five cents for plastic bags and donating the charge to charitable causes, on the “Gary Doyle Show” on CKGL-AM, Kitchener, June 22.
  • The Ontario Hockey Association has unveiled an award named after the late Don Sanderson, a York University student who died in a game last January, reported “24 Dayside” on CP24-TV, Toronto June 22.