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The precarious workplace explored at labour law lecture & conference

The precarious workplace explored at labour law lecture & conference

Precarious work is a growing, and worrisome, phenomenon in North America, and is contributing to both deteriorating working conditions and rising income inequality. This was the theme of the most recent labour law lecture and conference series at Western Law, held November 3-4, 2017.

“The lecture and conference focused on the spread of temporary, causal and parttime work throughout the North American economy,” said Professor Michael Lynk, one of the event organizers.

“Our speakers and panelists spoke to the rise of vulnerability among employees in the Canadian and American workplace, and why law-makers should be addressing this trend. The consequences of insecure work go well beyond the workplace.”

Dr. David Weil delivered the Koskie Minsky University Lecture in Labour Law. Weil, the Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Boston, explained the term ‘fissured workplace’ as a geological metaphor: the growing cracks in the once rock-solid promise of stable and long-term employment. The social contract that glued capital, labour and government together in the post-war world is coming undone in the face of globalization and the mobility of capital, technology, legislative somnolence and the rise of the 1 per cent.

Fourteen conference presenters, including economists, public policy specialists and lawyers, addressed the attendees at the Fasken Martineau University Conference the following day. Hassan Yussuff, the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, representing 3.3-million workers, was the keynote speaker at the conference luncheon. He spoke about the urgency to improve employment standards in Canada, and the role of the labour movement in lobbying for better laws and a stronger voice for workers.

Ontario Minister of Labour, the Honourable Kevin Flynn, spoke about Bill 148, the Government of Ontario’s legislative proposal to improve employment standards in response to the 2017 Changing Workplaces Review report, which addressed challenges facing Ontario’s labour force and economy in a rapidly changing world.

“Our Lecture and Conference this year – the ninth such event we have hosted since 2003 with this partnership of leading labour law firms from both sides of the fence – was truly a great success,” said Professor Lynk. “Labour law, after all, is about finding that balance between workplace productivity and workplace justice, and this event achieved that admirably.”

This article appeared in the Western Law 2018 Alumni Magazine.
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