Friday, 1 March 2013

Canadian government permissive of Worker Abuse

The definition of  Abuse is a corrupt practice or custom; improper or excessive use or treatment. The mistreatment of a person who is in a vulnerable position with the end result being the weakening and undermining of the other party.

We need to lobby our government to protect people against employers who abuse our workforce and offer precarious employment to our citizens. Corporations having the privilege to conduct business within the Canadian market also need take up the responsibility of offering ethical employment.

“What does employer abuse look like?” you might ask:

Abuse  happens when an employer is demanding more than reasonable speed of efficiency to handle a matter. Work tasks should allow for an employee to work with dignity and deal with variables of case-by-case matters within a reasonable time. Think nurses, call centre staff, nursing home staff, etc.

Systematic Abuse is when institutions engage in practices that take away a person's independence or dignity (also includes economic abuse). When workplaces systematically under-staff to save a buck, they are treating workers as a disposable commodity on a tread mill for profit – that is abuse.

Neglect is another a form of abuse. Corporations abuse and dehumanize their workforces when they refuse to give loyal and reliable workers a raise to keep up with the cost of living for continuing to do a good job. We have a broken system when a company can make record profits and withhold raises to the bulk of its workforce. To withhold fair compensation in rapidly-rising inflation economies from reliable and reasonably performing workers is neglect.

Companies are required by law to conduct business in good faith, but our policy makers are standing by permissively while corporate Canada systematically erodes our social fabric. Corporations violate our communities and our families when they create high stress work environments requiring aggressive performance targets for low compensation. This type of workplace culture affects a family's ability to partake in adequate leisure/recreation activities, their ability to provide opportunities for their children, and their ability save adequately for retirement and maintain a reasonable standard of living without resorting to enormous debt burdens. Our employment policies are outdated and they are not protecting the taxpaying citizen. Furthermore, the decline of our workplace standards affects our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. A record number of Canadians have reported experiencing anxiety and depression. Many Canadians are stressed and have lost hope in their financial futures. I believe that much of this depression is circumstantial, and those circumstances would be radically altered by a living wage.

Abuse is happening when one party's actions or words tears down another, or attacks or weakens or wears on a person's standing as a human being – to gratify quarterly earnings -- that is single-minded greed, and it is abuse.

An abuse-free system needs to be enforced; we need our MPs to lead in this respect to create a Canadian corporate environment that humanizes the workplace. Leaving the matter to self-regulating corporations isn't working - it only leads to empty saving-face initiatives and politically-correct-looking facades to appear socially conscientious.
We need change. Change that removes the oppressive weights from families and creates parameters for business to conduct themselves on a playing field that doesn't level or marginalize the employees.

True north strong and free - free to work and sustain ourselves and adequately meet the needs of our families. To live, to work, to play, and to save for our own futures -- free from social programs. There should be no such thing as the working poor in this nation. This is what we want as our national identity: dignity for the common man.


Friday, 22 February 2013

What if...

What if … we didn't need better jobs; we just needed to make the jobs better by making organizations pay a dignified wage.

What if ...  we had laws to prevent corporations from siphoning the wealth out of our society...

What if ... all of the multinational corporations operating in the Canadian market were required to employ a proportionate number of Canadian citizens.

Just imagine what it would be like if ... we had laws that put an employee's dignity back into the private sector?

What if … we stopped thinking in terms of getting more quality jobs on our soil, but, instead, focus on making every job a good job.
What if … all companies who employed persons at a rate that was within $5 dollars of the minimum wage were required to offer an RRSP matching program. What if these low wage payers also had to match RESP contributions for minors to ensure our children get access to education and that corporations with reported multi-million dollar earnings were obliged to sponsor child care covering up to %50 of the cost for employees.
What if … corporate tax breaks were contingent or proportionate to the number of employed persons making in excess of $23 per hour creating a win-win-win situation. Win for corporations on tax breaks, win for local government’s ability to recover concessions through income taxes, and win for the people reducing child poverty and old age poverty by enabling our citizens to make a living wage.
 What if… we had a brighter future

Friday, 15 February 2013

Mind the Gap: The Income Gap

A recent report was produced declaring the need for a national plan to reduce child poverty. The report articulated the struggle of low-income families and how the situation has worsened in the past 23 years. The report also highlighted the struggle of low-income households to cover basic needs stating: "Canada had the fourth largest increase in income inequality amongst advanced industrialized countries." The poor are even poorer, the middle income are at a standstill,  inflation is climbing and the rich are making record profits.

 The facts:
•   1 in 7 Canadian children live in poverty.
•   1 in 10 working-age Canadians live in poverty (most of whom are actually working).
•   1 in 5 households assisted by food banks actually have employment income.  
•   An estimated 1 in 5 full-time workers in Canada earn under $17 hourly.  
•   Real average wages aren’t keeping up with inflation (falling by 0.6% between 2009 and 2011).
•   Temporary jobs increased from 875,200 (2008) to 1,017,200 (2011).
•   Low-income Canadians have little savings to contribute to RRSPs.
•   Only 38.8% of workers have an employer pension; this average rate is falling.
 The study offered a series of recommendations including: increasing child tax benefit, government sponsored child care provisions, beefing up social programs, additional low income housing spending, vague statements about increasing secondary manufacturing jobs, and better paying jobs. The suggestions were neither original nor inspiring.
The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the government is standing by passively letting it happen. The third party consultants recommend the taxpayer spend more and take in less money. I'd like to point the finger to the corporations and their corporate social responsibility strategies: to challenge them to quit playing the slacktivist with their ribbons and awareness posters and reach into their bottom line to close the economic disparity gap.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Employee Self-Respect

"50/50 tickets – half the proceeds go to the Alzheimer's Society and the other half go to pay for our holiday party." "No, thanks," I said. "But it's a good cause," pressured the woman. "But I won't get a tax receipt," I quipped, "and I am not going to the Christmas party." "But it's a good cause," repeated the woman. "I'm not disagreeing with you," I replied, "will you accept a donation, in exchange for tax receipt? … I didn't think so."

It's not a co-incidence that corporations choose charities that have a direct impact on the lives of you and your co-workers – it's to entice you. In case you don't feel that you are working hard enough, the company is now trying to get you to volunteer more of your time and give away your underfunded salary.

Giving is a good thing; volunteering is a great thing. But I challenge you to consider who you are enriching with your generosity.  Keep in mind outrageous CEO bonuses in comparison to the number of employees that you work with who have not had a raise in more than five years.

The most notoriously clever corporations are like car dealerships: you buy a new car and they offer trade in value for your old car, and they get you coming and going. They sell you a car at an inflated profit margin, and buy your old car far below its actual value. We, as employees and consumers need to be very conscious of what constitutes a bad deal and minimize such participation.

We need to open our eyes and see through the games. We should not be paying for the Christmas party. We should not be going above and beyond for a company that is determined to do the employment standards minimum. We definitely should not be leveraging the corporate brand through their community relations initiatives.

Give back to the community, volunteer. Give of yourself, your time and your money to your own choice of great causes. Think like a CEO: give and get your own tax benefit. Give and enrich your own life and your own brand through volunteer work that is meaningful to you.  

Friday, 1 February 2013

TQM too far (Total Quality Management)

Workplace computer automatization and  procedural optimization has already leveraged profits to unprecedented levels and now they are coming for the souls of their employees.

Edwards Deming captured the Japanese audience at Toyota with a business management philosophy of continuous improvement... and the rest of the business world swiftly followed. This gave us a rapid culture of change for improving process, design and production by incremental adjustments. The idea of quality control as a culture of determining best practices for operational efficiency has brought us many innovative gains to do more with less and faster - very good business sense indeed.

TQM movement has leveraged the business model out in all the good ways, now you the consumer are being affected in all the bad ways. Have you noticed how thin the meat paddies have gotten on your Big Mac? Have you noticed that at Tim Hortons your honey crueller is half its original size and your cherry cheese danish is one third the pastry it used to be? That your frozen chicken breasts look more like chicken fingers after you have cooked them and the water has evaporated? And your foot long Subway sub is not a foot long! Well, you can blame TQM for that, because it's not always quality of the product they are improving - it is the stock price. Less for more when you buy, more for less when you work. The problem lies where optimization practices have pushed every frontier, and the only thing left for them to squeeze is the worker's dignity.
Have you called your cell phone provider recently? Or any 1-800 number for that matter? Have you been hung up on, or had a rep treat you with contempt when you inconvenienced them by asking another question? Were you told to hold the line a moment and abruptly transferred to another department only to have to start all over? Or maybe you called and the rep barely spoke English?
Behind the scenes, these reps are told that they have to solve all of your problems in three and a half minutes to meet aggressive productivity targets. But that's not enough – they must also beat out their co-workers if they want to be able to choose the shifts they want, so they can get off work in time to pick up little Johnny from daycare. If by chance the worker is not motivated by the numbers, they make it personal.
If you started such a job 20 years ago, the work conditions would have been much better. You would have had a starting wage of $35,000 annually, capped out at $52,000, and you would have had the luxury to solve problems at your leisure. Today, doing the same job with computers and advanced software applications, productivity has gone up exponentially. Yet the pay for this computer savvy super worker has dropped to a starting wage of $23,000, and it is capped out at $31,000. And if you can't afford the rising cost of inflation you can work overtime, because your low wage compels you to do so.
If you find yourself transferred abruptly, chances are your time ran out. Have you called through to these 1-800 numbers whose IVRs are so convoluted you got lost in menu options? That was no coincidence. They are designed to avoid you until you give up and go to the website address that they have been repeating in your ear. Their hope is that you go to your computer and seek self-serve options online and solve your own problems.
We have seen the wave of disposable products: you buy something and it falls apart the day after the warranty expires. Now we have arrived at the day the employee has become a disposable-dehumanized commodity. It's time to raise our pitch forks and form an angry mob to fight oppressive TQM strategies that are creating economic slavery and abusing the workforce.

Friday, 25 January 2013


This blog discusses the true state of corporate social responsibility as a campaign of propaganda that throws around appealing buzz words like "sustainability", but it is truly a farce that only the willfully ignorant pretend to buy into in attempt to ease their conscience. Why listen to me, you ask? Am I just another ungrateful, lazy worker? Another complainer living in the land of privilege and freedoms? Well, to answer that question, I feel I can speak with some authority on the matter as the nameless-Fortune-500-company happens to be in the outsourcing business. This means that I am handling several other well-known multinational corporations' dirty work, and I am well aware of the declining state of customer service and general growing deceitfulness of business practices.

This is a subject that I am very passionate about as I have watched friends and family members deteriorate emotionally and physically under the yoke of corporate slave drivers. In the summer of 2010, when I came to the decision to make a major life change - dropping to part-time to pursue my continuing education efforts on full-time basis - not one, but eight ambulances had been dispatched within an eight week span to care for my co-workers who were collapsing under the stress.  To clarify, we work in an office building, not a warehouse, or a construction site; we work in a setting where the only normal occupational hazard is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Throughout this blog I will highlight corporate efforts to siphon the wealth out of society and impoverish the masses. Let's open up the discussion and stir public outrage. I invite you share and collaborate together with me and other followers on your stories but, most importantly, your ideas for change.