Let Me Say This About That

This week has found me unable to focus entirely on any one story, so no deep dives. Instead, I’m going to touch briefly on some issues I’ve been following and which I hope to write about in more detail soon.


Labor relations

First, give me credit, please, for not using “Labor pains” as the heading for this item. It occurred to me, I promise you.

Second, I have been watching the rising labor unrest across the United States for months now, from the Teamsters voting to take on Amazon, to the month-long John Deere strike, involving 12 facilities in three states, to the striking coal miners in Alabama, to the strike authorization votes by the 59,000-member Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union, and thousands of Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers in Southern California.

USDA Secretary and striking John Deere workers

U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack joined the men and women of United Auto Workers Local 450 today as they continue their fight for a fair wage, better benefits, and a secure retirement at the John Deere Des Moines Works, in Ankeny, Iowa, on October 20, 2021. USDA Photo Media by Lance Cheung.

Not to mention the “Great Resignation” that has seen workers in the US voluntarily leaving their positions in record numbers (some 4.3 million in August alone). The term was apparently coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who told the Washington Post the departures are due to four main causes:

…a backlog of workers who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer; burnout, particularly among frontline workers in health care, food service and retail; “pandemic epiphanies” in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers and start their own businesses; and an aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely.

WaPo columnist Karla L Miller says the situation has changed the advice she offers readers unhappy with their current jobs:

Once upon a time, I might have urged the reader to stick it out a bit longer, find some creative workarounds, give it at least six months to show steady, reliable career progress that would appeal to prospective employers.

Now, however, I suspect employers will be willing to hire first and ask questions later. Workers get to be more choosy, and the onus is on employers to show how they make their employees feel safe, appreciated and respected.

I’ve been watching for signs of this militancy moving north of the border and I saw it in Glace Bay on Tuesday — a cluster of continuing care workers on Commercial Street, taking part in CUPE’s province-wide “Day of Action” in support of long-term care and community services:

“The province must act now to increase staffing levels and wages,” says Louise Riley, chair of CUPE’s Long Term Care and Community Services Coordinating Committee. “For decades, the government has imposed a wage freeze or an increase far below the rate of inflation. Many workers in these sectors must work two jobs, work at more than one facility, or work overtime, just to get by.”

I think I’m seeing it elsewhere in the CBRM, too — in municipal outside workers overwhelmingly, apparently, rejecting a tentative agreement with the municipality this week. Kevin Ivey, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 759, which represents the outside workers, told the Post that wages remain the biggest factor as an outstanding issue.

The union is negotiating with public works director Wayne MacDonald and public works managers Ray Boudreau and John Phalen.

CBRM spokesperson Christina Lamey told the Post the municipality’s negotiating team was “disappointed with the outcome” and feels the agreement it’s put forward “was a beneficial offer with no cuts of any kind, increases to wages and new benefits.”

I am watching this with interest.


Mr. Lahey

I’m shamelessly cribbing this from the Halifax Examiner, where Tim Bousquet yesterday revisited the Lahey Report.

Nova Scotia Forest Practices Report

AKA The Lahey Report

Bill Lahey, president of the University of King’s College, was commissioned by the province in 2018 to be lead author on the Forest Practices Report (commonly known — and just referred to by me — as the Lahey Report).

The report called for “a complete overhaul of the forestry industry in Nova Scotia.” And if you’re wondering  how that’s going, the answer is, not well.

Lahey published a progress review yesterday, in which he stated:

None of the work underway on FPR recommendations has resulted in much if any actual change on the ground in how forestry is being planned, managed, or conducted, and I have no indication of when any of it will. From the information at my disposal, I am not able to conclude that much or any change has happened in how forestry is practised based on the work the Department [of Natural Resources] has done on implementing the FPR. This is the overriding and central conclusion of this evaluation.

Combined with the fact that only five [of 45] recommendations have been fully implemented, and that the implementation phase of work on recommendations has not started on roughly two-thirds of all recommendations, implementation cannot so far be judged a success.

Lahey, Bousquet notes, is “particularly concerned” that his recommendation — which he terms the most important called for in the FPR —  that NS substitute “ecological forestry” for “industrial forestry (clearcutting) has yet to be implemented and:

…the level of harvesting on Crown land, and the percentage of harvesting conducted by clearcutting, appear to have remained constant from the date on which the FPR was submitted to the Department, which was August 22, 2018.

These concerns are accentuated by the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, in that it gives government until 2023 to implement the triad and therefore the ecological matrix on Crown lands…

It follows that the longer the delay in making the transition to ecological forestry, the greater the ecological loss in the parts of the forest that will eventually come under an ecological forestry regime.

Bousquet spoke with Ray Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), who pointed out that:

…that the Natural Resources Strategy, which called for a 50% reduction in clearcutting, was adopted in 2011. Seven years went by with no actual change in the amount of clearcutting. Lahey issued his FPR report in 2018, and now three years later, there’s still no change on the ground. This fall, the Houston government passed the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, which says the policies will be implemented… in 2023.

“For a decade and a half, reduction in clear-cutting has been promised but not delivered,” said Plourde. “It’s delay and log. Study and log. Think and log. Promise and log.”

The EAC is calling for “an immediate moratorium on all even-aged or clear-cutting harvesting methods on public land until the regulations are implemented and enforced” and in response to Lahey’s review, the provincial NDP also called for a moratorium on clearcutting.

Bousquet spoke to Lahey himself and it’s worth reading, but I will let you do it on the Examiner website.

(The Halifax Examiner, like the Cape Breton Spectator, is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes our work possible — and you can actually subscribe to both papers for one low price of $15/month.)


Cabot Saint Lucia

A reader sent me this link to a clip of Saint Lucia’s new minister of tourism, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, who had some rather stern words for Ben Cowan-Dewar:

The link was posted to Facebook by “citizen journalist” Adéx Larcher who said it was a “breath of fresh air” to hear “honest words” about the Saint Lucian government’s position on Cabot Saint Lucia, the luxury golf resort Cowan-Dewar and his partner, Mike Keiser, are currently constructing in the island nation.

Another one to watch.