The sorry state of our unions

It’s a precarious moment for the labour movement, reported The Globe and Mail on March 26. Next week’s federal and Ontario budgets will bring thousands of job losses. British Columbia’s 30,000 nurses are bargaining and the province’s teachers appear headed for a showdown with the government over back-to-work legislation. Toronto’s 23,000 inside workers are in a strike position. Meanwhile, the very survival of unions’ collective-bargaining powers is at stake. In a hostile environment, unions are beginning to realize that they must alter both their tactics and their attitudes. “A major defeat is staring us in the face,” says Sam Gindin, a former top union adviser who holds the Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University. “We have to change how unions function.” Read full story.

Air Canada’s brand takes (another) beating
Union rhetoric will impact the booking choices of consumers who don’t want to risk the unreliability of labour strife or support an anti-worker company, reported the Toronto Star March 23, in a story about Air Canada’s public image problems. “What you want in brand management is a brand where you have no controversy,” Markus Giesler, professor of Marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, told the Star. “That old PR wisdom of ‘Even negative press is good press, because people talk about us’ — that’s really not true.” Read full story.

Air Canada disruptions were predictable outcome of Tory intervention: experts
Wildcat strikes by Air Canada employees were the predictable outcome of the Harper government’s continual efforts to disrupt the normal collective bargaining process, labour experts said Friday, reported The Canadian Press March 23. David Doorey, professor of labour & employment law at York University, School of Human Resource Management, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, said the government made the situation worse by forcing pilots and mechanics into winner-take-all arbitration. Why Labour Minister Lisa Raitt thought this was a good strategy is anybody’s guess, Doorey said. “But the fact that employees are now resisting an unfair system should surprise no one,” he said in an e-mail. Read full story.

Air Canada wildcat sparked by a sarcastic exchange
The wildcat may be over, but some say the repercussions will linger — at the customer’s expense, reported the Toronto Star March 23, in a story about ongoing labour troubles at Air Canada. Fred Lazar, an economist at York University’s Schulich School of Business and longtime airline observer, says it would be optimistic to expect smooth sailing when flying on Air Canada. “Just because you go back to work doesn’t mean you’ll be working all that hard,” he said. “I think some people will feel ‘why should I care about the customer if my employer doesn’t care about me?’” Read full story.

Injunction ends Air Canada wildcat strike
Professor Fred Lazar of the Schulich School of Business at York University said Air Canada management and unions hold two drastically opposing views, reported Postmedia News March 23. Employees, who have been asked to make concessions over the past decade during difficult economic periods for the airline, feel it is unfair that senior executives have not been asked to do the same, he said. They’re seeking to safeguard benefits and pensions, he added. Management, Lazar said, is feeling the global competitive crunch. Read full story.

Ontario needs to refocus economy away from manufacturing
Decades ago, manufacturers such as auto makers and steel firms were the cornerstone of Ontario’s economy, said Fred Lazar, an economist at York University’s Schulich School of Business, in the Toronto Star March 23. Now, as those industries — and the number of people working in them — have ebbed, what’s been picking up the slack are the public sector and the construction industry. Neither are likely to continue being a big driver, Lazar said. Read full story.

Music in all directions
Fortunately for Ottawa drummer Jesse Stewart, guitarist Kevin Breit and cellist Matt Brubeck, one Juno Awards category does embrace eclecticism and Stretch Orchestra, the self-released disc from the trio of the same name, is vying for Instrumental Album of the Year. Brubeck, the son of pianist Dave Brubeck, moved to Ontario from California to attend (and now teach) at York University. Read full story.

Little Mosque on the Prairie: concept was bigger than the show
Minoo Derayeh
, a professor in the Department of Humanities at York University, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, uses the hit TV show “Little Mosque on the Prairie” in class to draw attention to social issues inside modern-day Islam. “I believe satire can reach people,” says Derayeh. “To me, it was a very powerful show. It gave some sort of direction to Muslim women not to accept forceful misinterpretations of the holy book.” Read full story.

Listing prices mean nothing
Moshe Milevsky
, professor of finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, says the growing practice of listing homes for sale with a low asking price is analogous to the strategy used in the financial market for initial public offerings. “In cases of real estate, it’s not different,” he says. “What you offer it at is not as important as what the market price is. You offer at a low number to create a bidding war.” Read full story.