Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Thomas Walkom discusses how a continued economic slump is combining with the Cons' economic policies to destroy secure jobs in favour of precarious, low-paying work:
Those making economic policy from afar may admire creative destruction. Those being destroyed rarely do.

Here in Canada, this entire high-wire act is being performed without safety nets. The ones we had — such as welfare and employment insurance — were either eliminated or reduced by successive federal governments.
What is to be done? Poloz says we have no choice but to wait — until foreigners start buying Canadian goods again, until domestic business owners feel more upbeat.

Harper wants the economy to be more competitive. To that end, his government is aiding in the destructive side of creative destruction by pushing wages down.

Thus, it attacks unions. Thus, it imports temporary foreign workers to dampen down labour costs for business.

Provincial governments, like that of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, are helping the destructive process along by cutting back their spending.

They fear public debt. But that fear means that public assets — from health care to transit to schools — are left to decay.

The hope of the destroyers is that, in the long run, we will all be better off.

Perhaps. But as economist John Maynard Keynes once noted, in the long run we will also all be dead.
- Jefferson Cowie notes that in the U.S. (as in Canada), it's long past time for labour standards law to be updated to avoid loopholes used by employers to avoid basic protections:
(Seventy-five) years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act to give a policy backbone to his belief that goods that were not produced under “rudimentary standards of decency” should not be “allowed to pollute the channels of interstate trade."

The act is the bedrock of modern employment law. It outlawed child labor, guaranteed a minimum wage, established the official length of the workweek at 40 hours, and required overtime pay for anything more. Capping the working week encouraged employers to hire more people rather than work the ones they had to exhaustion. All this came not from the magic of market equilibrium but from federal policy.
(T)oday the act faces an uncertain future, thanks to a series of disconcerting shifts in the way we think about work in America.

The problem is indicative of the moral and political slipperiness of our time. A large and growing number of employers willfully classify their employees as “exempt” from the law by shifting their jobs, but not their pay, to administrative, executive and professional categories. Being exempt allows employers to ignore pesky things like overtime or minimum wages, since these are salaried, not hourly workers. Lawsuits over back overtime pay resulting from misclassifications have gone through the roof.

If the line between exempt and nonexempt workers has become unfairly blurred, the line distinguishing employee and independent contractor has faded to near invisibility. We are moving toward the “1099 economy,” named after the tax form provided to independent contractors, a classification that often walks the line of legality.

For some workers, being a 1099’er means more flexibility, creativity and control over their work. However, there are many more reluctant 1099 workers who want regular jobs but find themselves locked out of the system by employers looking for an easy way to buck their responsibility to their employees.

And then there is the most infamous classification hustle: the internship. For bright, young (and typically affluent) interns at America’s top corporations there is no actual job, so there are no fair labor standards to apply. That means no minimum wage and no maximum hours. There is often no pay at all.
And CBC reports on Bell Canada's efforts to squeeze free labour out of interns.

- Meanwhile, Nicole Reinert and Zach Dubinsky report on offshore tax avoidance by Canadian banks.

- Finally, Michael Geist discusses how the Cons' familiar combination of sellouts to industry and regulatory delays has left Canada without a functional anti-spam law.

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