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A Response to “Jobs, Training, and the Common Good” – the Catalyst, Summer 2014
It is very true that Canadian workers need the latest training in workplace skills to compete in today’s global economy. However the best skills training in the world is insufficient to protect the livelihoods of Canadian workers from corporations willing to abandon employees for the sake of lower wages in other jurisdictions.
In February 2012, the Toronto Star reported, “American industrial giant Caterpillar is closing its locomotive plant in London (Ontario) and putting 460 workers out of their jobs just over a month after they were locked out for rejecting pay cuts of up to 50 per cent.” In that same month, the Toronto Star also reported, “WestJet employees vote 91 per cent in favour of launching a regional Canadian airline that could launch as early as 2013.”
The executives of Caterpillar and other corporations will not base the opening and closing of plants solely on the skills of workers. These decisions are driven by the dictates of the company shareholders. Too often, where the company shareholders do not include workers or their representatives, the employers’ decisions will often give inadequate consideration to the livelihoods of its workers, regardless of skill levels.
Corporate decision-making processes that compare the cost of wages versus the cost of lower wages plus training costs will often close plants without regard for the well-being of current employees. Caterpillar’s executives are not unique in this world. WestJet management consults their employees in the decision-making process because WestJet employees own shares in the company.
Canadian workers and their unions need to consider including the acquisition of company shares in their contract negotiations. Why should blue collar workers be any different from white collar workers and executives when it comes to aligning their livelihoods with the decision-making procedures and priorities of their companies? Workers of all hues deserve to be included in the ownership and decision-making structures and procedures of their companies.
Canadian workers and their families need to pressure Canadian politicians to adopt policies that encourage companies to increase worker ownership of shares. The future livelihoods of Canadian workers, their families, and their descendants is too important to risk solely on skills acquisition. Companies whose workers are invested in the profitability of those companies will work to develop their skills and keep their companies working for the common good and a shared future.
Refugee Health Care
I want to state how appreciative I was to read the short document by Dr. Doug Gruner regarding the issue of refugee health care. It clearly exposes how the government’s small concern for the plight of the refugee only applies when there is a perceived threat to public safety. It is but a little step down the path to closing our borders to whole populations and countries, thereby encouraging a more rapid spread of Ebola by discouraging disclosure. Once again supposedly for greater public safety.