unions

Society, Power, and “Hack Attack”

Nick Davies’ book Hack Attack  is a powerful read. It’s the story of Davies’ investigation into the phone hacking conducted by several of the British newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. The investigation led to a judicial inquiry, several criminal convictions,  and the closure of the News of the World newspaper. And since Hack Attack was released last year, eight victims of phone hacking have filed a civil suit against the Mirror group of newspapers for invasion of privacy – a suit that is currently being heard in a London court.

Davies’ book describes the details and scope of the hacking – and how the hacking gradually became exposed, thanks to several anonymous informants – but also illuminates (more…)

My New Book

I’m very pleased to announce that the 4th edition of my textbook Industrial Relations in Canada, published by John Wiley and Sons Canada, is now (more…)

Amanda Lang, the CBC, and Journalistic Standards

Amanda Lang, CBC News’ “senior business correspondent” and the host of the CBC-TV show The Exchange with Amanda Lang, has recently been the subject of some controversy. In the last few weeks of 2014, it was alleged that she violated CBC’s conflict of interest policies by accepting paid speaking engagements from companies that she then “favourably” covered on her TV show. Then in early January it was alleged that she had lobbied within CBC News to downplay a story about the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) outsourcing jobs held by Canadian workers, when in the past she had given paid speeches at RBC-sponsored events. It also emerged that Lang was involved in a personal relationship with an RBC executive.

In a newspaper op-ed column, Lang denied the allegations of improper influence and defended her integrity – a response that was not well received. CBC subsequently banned its on-air staff from making paid appearances at non-CBC events, and, last week, announced that an “internal review” had found that Lang’s coverage did not violate CBC’s “journalistic standards”.

This series of events was deeply distressing to anyone who cares about the integrity of Canada’s publicly-funded national broadcaster – especially when the allegations involving Lang came directly after the allegations of workplace harassment by CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, followed by multiple criminal charges being laid against him. What was also distressing in Lang’s case was that both she and the CBC didn’t seem to understand that a perceived conflict of interest can be as damaging as an actual conflict of interest. Lang’s dismissing the allegations as “malevolent” and “utterly unwarranted” was ill-advised, and in my opinion only made the situation that much worse.

I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with much of Lang’s television work. But recently, while looking for something else entirely in the CBC’s online video archives, I came across a recent interview on her show that was so appalling (more…)

Executives and Harassment in Organizations: An Interview with David Yamada

The New Year has started off with new developments in the story of disgraced CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi. On January 5, the CBC announced that two of its executives – Chris Boyce, the executive director of CBC radio, and Todd Spencer, the “executive director of people and culture” for CBC’s English-language operations – had been placed “on leave until further notice”. Then on January 7, what was supposed to be a routine court appearance for Ghomeshi turned into something more, as three new criminal charges were laid against him – including one involving a former CBC employee.

Ghomeshi now faces seven charges of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty to all eight counts, and his next court appearance is scheduled for early February.

When events like this involve a workplace, there’s always the issue of whether the organization responded appropriately to the behaviour in question. In most organizations, executive positions at Boyce and Spencer’s level have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring safety and respect in the workplace. But there might be many layers of responsibility and authority between that executive level and the level at which the unacceptable behaviour is taking place. So how accountable should executives be for workplace events which they might not have had direct control over?

To get some perspective on that question, (more…)

Union Grievance Procedures and the Jian Ghomeshi Story

Just over three weeks ago, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) fired Jian Ghomeshi, the host of its radio show Q. The CBC stated that the reason for the firing was “information” that “preclud[ed]” it from continuing to employ him. Since then, a number of women have come forward with allegation that Ghomeshi physically attacked them while they were dating him. Three of these allegations are being investigated by the Toronto police. Ghomeshi is suing the CBC for $55 million for allegedly dismissing him on the basis of a “moral judgement” about his sex life. He also announced on Facebook that he would also be filing a grievance for reinstatement.

A big part of the discussion of this story is about Ghomeshi’s workplace behaviour – since one of the first allegations of abusive behaviour was from another CBC employee – and whether the CBC adequately fulfilled its responsibility as an employer to provide a safe, harassment-free work environment. However, there is a major difference between Ghomeshi’s employment situation and the employment situations of many other high-profile media personalities in Canada and elsewhere. Ghomeshi is a union member – and that means that his situation will likely be managed differently than if he wasn’t part of a union.

Some commentators on the Ghomeshi story – particularly those from outside Canada – apparently don’t understand how grievances work in unionized workplaces in Canada, how a grievance might relate to Ghomeshi’s lawsuit, or the responsibility of his union in representing him. I think it’s important to be clear on those issues, (more…)

The IKEA Lockout Is Over

The nearly 18-month-long lockout of unionized workers at IKEA’s store in Richmond, British Columbia, has ended.

Mediator Vince Ready joined the negotiations between IKEA and the Teamsters Union just after helping the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC government resolve their bitter dispute. According to several media reports, (more…)

More About the Coalition of BC Businesses and the BC Teachers’ Federation Court Case

This week, the Coalition of BC Businesses was formally granted intervenor status in the BC government’s appeal of the Supreme Court ruling in the government’s bargaining disputes with the BC Teachers’ Federation. (A copy of the Coalition’s “factum” explaining its legal arguments is here, and the Court of Appeal’s written decision to grant intervenor status to the Coalition is here.)

Most of the Coalition’s members are associations whose members are groups in specific industries or with shared interests. The Coalition’s list of member organizations disappeared from its webpage a few days after its press release announcing the application for intervenor status. However, you can find a list of the Coalition’s members here.  As I noted in my previous analysis of the Coalition’s press release, since the announcement one of the Coalition’s member organizations has expressed its disagreement with the application.

After the release of the decision to approve the Coalition as an intervenor, I was contacted (more…)

The Canadian LabourWatch Association and Its Latest Anti-Union Poll

Last year, the Canadian LabourWatch Association got more publicity than it expected for its 2011 “State of the Unions” poll, after the Canadian Labour Congress filed a complaint with the Market Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA) about the poll’s methodology. The MRIA ruled that the company conducting the poll did not violate professional standards, but also found that two of the poll questions were handled in ways that led to the release of “potentially biased” information. The finding of “potential bias” was particularly significant, since information from the poll was being used in Canada’s Parliament to support Bill C-377 – a proposed law that would put exceptional financial reporting requirements on Canadian unions.

Given the attention that the 2011 “State of the Unions” poll received, I was really surprised to randomly discover that in October of last year, LabourWatch released the results of a 2013 “State of the Unions” poll. Most of the media (with the predictable exception of the Toronto Sun and the Sun News Network) ignored the 2013 poll, and that’s probably a good thing – because (more…)

Is the BC Government Bargaining in Bad Faith?

This week, the British Columbia government announced that if the current strike by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) extends into the start of the new school year, parents of public school students under the age of 13 will receive $40 per day for as long as the strike lasts. The reaction to this announcement was less than positive. Many parents stated they would sooner see the money go into funding public education or settling a collective agreement with the BCTF, and a University of Victoria economist pointed out how poorly organized the plan seemed to be. But another question that was raised in the discussions of the plan was: in announcing that plan, was the BC government bargaining in bad faith?

It isn’t easy to answer that question with a definitive “yes” or “no”.  And here’s why. (more…)

BC Labour Relations Board: IKEA Is Bargaining In Bad Faith

I’ve written several previous posts about the labour dispute at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia, which has seen unionized workers locked out for more than a year.

In May, the union representing the workers, Teamsters Local 213, filed a complaint with the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (LRB) about IKEA’s actions. The union alleged that IKEA was trying to undercut the union’s role as the workers’ representative in bargaining, by offering financial inducements to workers to cross picket lines and return to their jobs.

On Friday, July 25, the LRB ruled that (more…)