Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace

Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace

Essays in Memory of Bernie Adell

The essays in this book arise from a symposium in honour of the late Professor Bernard Adell, hosted by the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace at Queen’s University. The symposium marked the twentieth anniversary of Weber v Ontario Hydro, a Supreme Court of Canada decision that radically challenged orthodox understandings of the role of arbitration in Canadian labour law. The authors provide a thought-provoking range of ideas and insights into the labour law problems posed by Weber, invoking themes that reflect Bernie Adell’s lifelong interest in the intersection of theoretical and practical labour law, and in the institutions that shape and enforce that law in Canadian workplaces.

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Empty Promises

Elizabeth Shilton

Workplace pensions are a vital part of Canada’s retirement income system, but these plans have reached a state of crisis as a result of their low coverage and inadequate, insecure, and unequally distributed benefits. Reviewing pension plans through a legal and historical lens, Empty Promises reveals the paradoxical effects and inevitable failure of a pension system built on the interests of employers rather than employees.

Elizabeth Shilton examines the evolution of pension law in Canada from the 1870s to the early twenty-first century, highlighting the foreseeably futile struggle of legislators to create and sustain employees’ pension rights without undermining employers’ incentives. The current system gives employers considerable discretion and control in pension design and administration. Shilton appeals for a model that is not hostage to business interests. She recommends replacing today’s employer-controlled systems with pensions shaped by the public interest, expanding mandatory broad-based or state-pension systems such as the Canada Pension Plan to generate pensions that respond to the changing workplace and address the needs and interests of retirees.

Engaging with the long-running debate on whether Canadians should look to government or to the private sector for retirement income security, Empty Promises is a crucial work concerned with the future of the Canadian retirement system.

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Blood, Sweat and Fear

Jeremy Milloy

Going postal. We think of the rogue employee who snaps. But in Blood, Sweat, and Fear, Jeremy Milloy demonstrates that workplace violence never occurs in isolation. Using violence as a lens, he provides fresh and original insights into the everyday workings of capitalism, class conflict, race, and gender in the United States and Canada of the late twentieth century, bringing historical perspective to contemporary debates about North American violence.

Blood, Sweat, and Fear is the first full-length historical exploration of the origins and effects of individual violence in the automotive industry. Milloy’s gripping analysis spans 1960 to 1980, when North American auto plants were routinely the sites of fights, assaults, and even murders. He argues that the high levels of violence were primarily the result of workplace conditions – including on-the-job exploitation, racial tension, bureaucratization, and hypermasculinity – that made fear and loathing a shop-floor reality long before mass shootings attracted media attention in the 1980s.

Workplace violence is typically the domain of management studies and psychology, but while we pass legislation and adopt best practices, the problem continues. Milloy’s explosive book reveals that workplace violence has been a constant aspect of class conflict – and that our understanding needs to go deeper. Blood,

Sweat, and Fear will interest everyone concerned with the causes of workplace violence, and in particular scholars and students of labour history, sociology, sociological criminology, masculinity studies, and studies of race and of violence.

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