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Fit & Finish: Labour of love

Social benefits have been both boon and bane in the current labour market.

July 15, 2021  By Chris Meiorin

Your production department just made a recent hire. He was mature, conscientious, and hardworking. He complimented his younger work partner very well. His hire, you felt, rounded out the work cell perfectly. “Recent Hire,” however, shows up drunk one morning. Not smelling of alcohol but stumbling drunk. Your workplace policy has you put him in a cab and send him home. He challenges you to be paid for the day. You suggest you talk about it at a planned meeting ahead of his next shift, when, perhaps, he will be sober and exhibiting coherent communication. Your workplace policy doesn’t make note of this, so you are left but to assume. “Recent Hire,” however, doesn’t show up for the meeting. Instead, he calls later that day and suggests he will come in for a meeting only if he gets a raise. And the worst part is, for half a second, you actually consider this to be a good idea.

As governments and businesses turn their minds towards the recovery and re-opening of the economy, so does the labour market. In what has been a challenging labour market during the past 16 months, for both employers and workers, it now seems utterly hopeless for both. In a previous column, I discussed how, in some ways, the pandemic has brought us fenestrators together. There was a lot to talk about, after all. Market uncertainties, supply chain interruptions, an unpredictable and erratic demand for products – but now it seems the discussion among owners and managers almost always turns toward the labour necessary to keep up with a surging post-pandemic recovery.

Admittedly, the past year has been tough on workers, especially those in the low-paying segment of the labour market, but if we look to countries that have opened up some time ago, like New Zealand and Australia, it is easy to suggest that we are in now leaning towards a significant increase in job vacancies. As one chief economist recently mused, “Basically, employers can’t find people to work. We definitely see it…in the U.S. where they are opening up and the companies and employers simply cannot find people.” Based on any of the seemingly hundreds of industry conversations that I have had over the past months, almost every single one in some way reflected this sentiment. Consistently, the question “Why?” will be asked, and the answers are just as consistent as the questions. Employment Insurance regular benefits, the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. Parents and caregivers of young students have been forced to leave their jobs to accommodate home schooling. And in just as many instances, it would appear, people are just plain afraid to go to work during a pandemic of proportions with which none of us are the least bit familiar.

A good friend of mine had just returned from a motivational retreat. This “retreat” included 72 hours of sleep and food deprivation, repeated cold water immersion, small space confinement and the occasional punch in the face. Excuses were not allowed and met with verbal abuse. He came back energized and prepared to tackle the damage his business endured having been mandated to shut down for eight months. He preached a no-holds-barred approach to business and to life. In short, it taught him how to work independently, in teams, with partners and against adversaries.

In review of this column, I can’t help but see a world of contrast. One of the most important ways that a society can buffer socioeconomic disadvantage is through sponsored social assistance. It’s the core and fabric of any society, but especially here in Canada. It’s what often makes us the envy of the world. But at what point does the generosity put us at risk of becoming a welfare state?

Chris Meiorin is president of EuroVinyl Windows and Doors in Woodbridge, Ont.

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