What's Left 2015-05-24 Volume 13

The conclusions of a flury of reports on precarious work released this week in Ontario couldn't be clearer: as precarious works becomes more prevalent, inequality grows.

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Precarious work tops agenda as reports highlight long-term risks

The conclusions of a flury of reports on precarious work released this week in Ontario couldn’t be clearer: as precarious works becomes more prevalent, inequality grows.

First, Poverty and Employment in Southern Ontario (PEPSO), in conjunction with researchers at MacMaster University, and funded by the United Way Toronto, released The Precarity Penalty. Second, a report was released by the United Way Toronto and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that youth getting trapped in precarious work has a negative impact on economic growth.

As more and more people seek to explain the causes of rising inequality in advanced capitalist countries, the focus has turned to precarious work as a major contributing factor. There are two ways to explain the rise of precarious work, the first being as part of the collapse of the industrial manufacturing sector resulting from liberalization of international trade (and reduced tariff-protected jobs). The artificially maintained difference in exchange rates between countries and the four decades long neoliberal monetary policy prioritizing finance capital and consumption over production has helped to maintain this situation.

The second reason for the rise in precarious work is the growth of human service sectors. As the overall population ages, and as services once provided by the public sector become casualized and privatized, the jobs themselves become more fragmented. When high-skilled and/or large industrial work in Canada gets replaced with lower-skill and informal work environments, there is increased competition for jobs and an increase in exploitative practices because protections for precarious workers are limited.

The gendered history of part-time work is of great importance when understanding the entrenched attitudes towards temporary work. Temporary agencies rose in prominence in the 1950s attempting to sell employers the a more flexible workforce and increased profits. However, to get around the push-back from male-dominated unions who were opposed to their jobs being undermined, the agencies targeted middle-class women who were not considered a threat to male-dominated full-time jobs. This marketing history of Never-Never Girls explains part of the reason that it took until the 2000’s for Canada to pass legislation partially regulating precarious work.

The economic impacts are also concerning as precarious workers are less likely to spend their earnings because of the perceived risk of losing their job. Precarious workers are also less likely to have retirement savings. Needless to say, the long-term economic implications of precarious work is an increased strain on social service programs.

More: The Precarity Penalty

More: Precarious jobs holding back young workers, OECD finds

More: Never Never Girls


On the radar: employment standards review in Ontario

The Ontario government has started a review of both the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act in an attempt to find solutions to the under-protection of precarious workers. While the review  will ignore systemic changes such as labour market reforms, enhancements to employment insurance, youth employment guarantees, skills support and universal and transferable social protections, it is attempting to mitigate the negative consequences of increased precarious employment through legislative protections.

It is important for labour and social activists to bring forward innovative and thoroughly thought-out ideas to this consultation process. This includes allowing unions to better represent marginalized workers through sector-wide bargaining. Sector agreements is one way to take a floor on wages, health and safety and working conditions out of competition.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=b43d9a2eac&e=8484a6ba75][Ontario to review labour laws for gaps when it comes to precarious workers]]

Big oil still big oil despite carbon tax bid

When the NDP government was elected in Alberta with a mandate to increase taxes to help pay for the collapse of oil prices and years of uncollected royalties, the oil industry had a curious response.

Suncor CEO Steve Williams turned a few heads when he recently suggested a carbon tax is acceptable as an alternative to increasing oil and gas royalties and corporate income taxes. Although there may be a tendency by various liberal wings of the environmental movement to hail the CEO’s bid as a climate change call to action, it is not. This is much more likely to be a cynical move by Big Oil to limit their tax bill. They know, as much as anyone else, that carbon taxes are easily passed on to consumers inside and outside the province through price increases. Progressive income and corporate taxation would work better to generate the kind of revenue needed.

More: Big Oil to Rachel Notley: Bring on a carbon tax

New Brunswick liberals steer towards privatized services

Nothing hiding behind a curtain here: this week, the Liberals in New Brunswick promoted privatization and outsourcing of public services as the saviour of all problems in the province. Promoting a highly revisionist and skewed view of the recent privatizations in BC, the province presented a skewer of speakers, including the biggest proponents and the private beneficiaries of privatization, while completely ignoring the actual (documented) impacts.

Recent auditor general reports from Nova Scotia, BC and Ontario should have upended any ideas that public-private partnerships, privatizations or outsourcing either lead to better services or are cheaper than publicly administrated services. BC’s history of privatization is particularly bad with estimates of hundreds of millions of dollars wasted replacing public services with private monopolies. Even finance and banking industries are starting to write papers showing the history of outsourcing and privatization simply leads to a transfer of wealth from front-line service providers to middle management resulting in no savings, personal interest-based decisions and deteriorated services. After all, what manager does not like hiring more managers and more meetings with other managers about overseeing a service they have outsourced, not only the work itself, but also the blame for failure?

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=94dc9f455b&e=8484a6ba75][Ontario audit throws cold water on federal-provincial love affair with P3s]]

Canadians not ready to give spy agencies the green light

New polls on snooping and privacy indicate that Canadians are not supportive of the Conservative’s new undignified spying laws. Canadians believe that while the police should be allowed to snoop on criminals, they should have the obligation to prove to a real court why they think certain targets are in fact criminals before they proceed with snooping. Seems like most people are not OK with government bureaucrats and agencies with little oversight snooping on everything everyone is browsing on the Internet.

More: Canadians to Spy Agencies: Get a warrant! | Open Media

Garda locks out workers in Ottawa

Private security firm GardaWorld, which took over the Ottawa area contracts from G4S, seems to think it has no need to respect its employees. When selling yourself as a risk management company, locking out Unifor members who guarantee that any risk is mitigated for clients seems counter-intuitive. But, like with most of the expansion of privatized services, the tendency towards monopoly, limiting choice in who you are going to hire, profit takes priority over service.

More: GardaWorld locks out workers in Ottawa

Manitoba puts education on chopping bloc

The Canadian Federation of Students is raising the alarm over the cuts to quality public post-secondary education as a way to invest in new fancy corporate-focused buildings. The university wants to blame the government for lack of funding, but the CFS highlights that budget choices are to blame. Students suggest focusing on the core mission of the university, which is teaching and research instead of vanity-driven corportization projects.

More: University of Manitoba Budget Cuts

On the importance of planning resource extraction even in BC

A new report examining the impacts of the drastic drop in oil and gas prices re-examined the costs of Liquid Natural Gas terminals and export from BC. It states that it likely not economically feasible for another decade at least. Along with the dramatic drop in undeveloped shale oil fields in the US, the resource extraction has huge impacts on economic forecasts.

No need to tell Alberta, Venezuela and Newfoundland and Labrador, but relying on a resource extraction industry an pretending it is for ever is not sustainable policy. The challenge is that even with socialist governments, the immediate situation is too easy to focus on. However, it might still be said that if Alberta invested the way Venezuela did it would have at least built some social capital.

More: BC LNG Lost Opportunity

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=5fd720edde&e=8484a6ba75][From Canada to Australia, energy groups’ cuts are laid bare | FT.com (paywall)]]

Readings from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

If you haven’t read the CCPA Monitor in a few years, now is the time to give it a second chance. The monthly newspaper has a new slick look for its abundance of research content.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement has been in the news lately as it is one of the sticks the pro-union side of the Democratic Party have been using to hit the US President with. However, Canada is also part of the discussion and the agreement will have negative impacts here too. The CCPA has a new factsheet on this subject.

Finally, the CCPA is publishing a brief history of the effects of corporatization of universities and its impacts on research. As university structures take on a more corporate (as opposed to democratic) formation, it tends to undermine freedom of thought, freedom of expression and academic freedom. While not surprising to anyone who has worked for a corporation with more employees than one that corporate structures do not foster critical thinking, it seems a shock to the corporate CEO’s that are driving the agenda.

More: CCPA Monitor: Extreme makeover edition

More: TPP and Canada

More: A penny for your thoughts


Oil spill travels on California coast

In yet another example of why oil pipelines operated by private companies are a terrible idea, California is experiencing the consequences of an oil pipeline rupture and spill. While moving petroleum products from where they are abundant to where they are not will be a feature of the economy for some years to come, the question remains: why are we so terrible at it? Oil spills, generally smaller but more frequent by train and larger and more environmentally catastrophic along pipelines continue to be a feature of the oil industry. It might be that the best carbon tax would be either nationalization of the oil distribution system and/or an expensive regulatory system imposed on transport of petroleum products.

More: Pipeline that leaked wasn’t equipped with auto shut-off