Weekly Wrap: HR loses labour law expert, Hudak loses labour law skirmish

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Large Canadian law firm closing after 40 years
Canadian HR professionals have lost a major player in the employment law field with the announcement that Heenan Blaikie LLP is closing after 40 years in operation.

A vote this week approved a plan to dissolve the firm, making it the largest failure of a lawfirm in Canadian history.

The firm had lost a significant number of senior partners to competitors, and was facing increased competition in the legal industry. Many large businesses are no longer remaining loyal to just one large firm.

Some of the lawyers may stay together under a new roof. Partners in Toronto are in talks with DLA Piper in the United States about lawyers in Toronto and possibly Calgary joining the global firm, the Globe and Mail reported.

The firm's well-respected labour and employment department has been split between other firms, with four labour lawyers joining Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, and a group of Vanvouver lawyers establishing their own boutique firm called Gall Legge Grant Munroe LLP, which will specialize in areas of workplace law and litigation.

It will include 14 lawyers from Heenan’s Vancouver office and six senior advisers or “associate counsel,” including firm co-founder Roy Heenan and prominent sports lawyer Brian Burke, who is president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.

Do many Tories object to Hudak's "Right to work" plan?
A leaked memo from a number of conservative candidates indicates that many are against Progressive conservative leader Tim Hudak’s labour law plans, which would make union dues and membership optional.

Although Hudak has dropped the phrase “right-to-work” when discussing the plan, he stood by the policy, which  would make labour laws more flexible to try to stem the flow of job losses, especially in the province's once mighty manufacturing sector.

“I'm tired of other countries and states eating our lunch and taking away our manufacturing jobs,” said Hudak. “We need to modernize our laws so we can give more opportunity to young people in this province, and to grow businesses.”

However, a memo leaked to The Toronto Star shows not all Conservative candidates feel the same. Written by 11 Conservative MPPs from North Ontario, expressing concern that right to work could lose the party seats in the north if it fails to sell the policy to voters.

While right to work laws are often touted as pro-employer, some critics say this is short sighter. According to Professor Harley Shaiken of the University of California-Berkeley unions are associated with higher productivity, lower employee turnover, improved workplace communication, and a better-trained workforce.

Hudak no longer uses the words “right-to-work” to describe his plan, but said a Tory government would make labour laws more flexible to try to stem the flow of job losses, especially in the province's once mighty manufacturing sector.

“I'm tired of other countries and states eating our lunch and taking away our manufacturing jobs,” said Hudak. “We need to modernize our laws so we can give more opportunity to young people in this province, and to grow businesses.”

The Liberals have been holding news conferences to gleefully point out apparent dissension in the Conservative ranks over the right-to-work initiative.

Several Conservative MPPs voted against a 1997 bill that would have made payment of union dues optional, including Bart Maves, who is the Tory candidate in next week's byelection in Niagara Falls, said Liberal backbencher Steven Del Duca.

“Is Niagara Falls PC candidate Bart Maves one of the many PC candidates who oppose the right-to-work-for-less policy,” asked Del Duca. “It's also quite clear that Tim Hudak is going further than (former Conservative premier) Mike Harris ever contemplated doing with his right-to-work-for-less scheme.”

Hudak would scrap the so-called Rand formula in labour law, which mandates that all employees in a unionized shop pay dues, even if they don't join the union.

The governing Liberals said Hudak's proposal to make Ontario a so-called “right-to-work” province is so toxic many Conservatives are afraid it will cost them the next election.

Henry Jacek, political science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the issue is causing real problems for Hudak within Tory ranks.

“There's a lot of internal dissent in the party,” said Jacek. “A lot of people are unhappy inside the party about getting rid of the Rand formula, something we've had for over 60 years.”

Hudak was recently forced to fire the PC candidate in the Windsor riding of Essex, Dave Brister, after he came out against right-to-work.

The Tories said Brister was dropped after he openly attacked PC labour critic Monte McNaughton on Twitter for supporting labour law changes.

“As I told you last year @montemcnaughton I support @timhudak but I don't endorse your Labour Critic support for 'right to work' legislation,” Brister Tweeted Jan. 21.

McNaughton said Wednesday that the Conservatives were “not at all” backing away from right-to-work, which critics say has resulted in lower wages in the many U.S. states where it has been adopted.

“Our policy is about giving workers a choice of whether or not they join a union,” said McNaughton. “No one in Ontario in 2014 should be forced by law to join a union in order to get a job.”

The Liberals also released a leaked audio tape from a PC policy convention last fall in which veteran Tory John O'Toole was applauded by delegates when he warned the party could be “screwed” in the expected spring election by “right-to-work” policies.

The Tories, meanwhile, produced a radio ad Wednesday for the Feb. 13 byelection in Niagara Falls, attacking New Democrat candidate Wayne Gates for saying he wants to see his former union, the Canadian Auto Workers, “take over” the NDP.

The NDP called it an act of desperation and distraction.

“Instead of talking about right-to-work, Hudak is desperately flailing and sinking to new lows with ugly politics that are meant to distract from the fact he has a policy his team won't back,” said NDP labour critic Taras Natyshak.

The New Democrats released a television ad for Niagara Falls that attacks Hudak and the Conservatives for “sitting on the sidelines” but makes no mention of the Liberals.

The ads are a sign the Tories and New Democrats feel they are each other's real competition in Niagara Falls, even though Liberal Kim Craitor held the riding for the past decade.

Hudak held his news conference Wednesday in Thornhill, the site of next week's other byelection, where the Conservatives are fighting hard to hold on to the seat against a strong Liberal challenge.

- See more at: http://www.hrreporter.com/articleview/20116-liberals-claim-many-tories-oppose-tim-hudaks-plan-to-make-union-dues-optional#sthash.fl3cDVVO.dpuf

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Wednesday he would stand by his plan to change Ontario's labour laws to make union dues and membership optional, while the Liberals claimed many Tories oppose the idea.

Hudak no longer uses the words “right-to-work” to describe his plan, but said a Tory government would make labour laws more flexible to try to stem the flow of job losses, especially in the province's once mighty manufacturing sector.

“I'm tired of other countries and states eating our lunch and taking away our manufacturing jobs,” said Hudak. “We need to modernize our laws so we can give more opportunity to young people in this province, and to grow businesses.”

The Liberals have been holding news conferences to gleefully point out apparent dissension in the Conservative ranks over the right-to-work initiative.

Several Conservative MPPs voted against a 1997 bill that would have made payment of union dues optional, including Bart Maves, who is the Tory candidate in next week's byelection in Niagara Falls, said Liberal backbencher Steven Del Duca.

“Is Niagara Falls PC candidate Bart Maves one of the many PC candidates who oppose the right-to-work-for-less policy,” asked Del Duca. “It's also quite clear that Tim Hudak is going further than (former Conservative premier) Mike Harris ever contemplated doing with his right-to-work-for-less scheme.”

Hudak would scrap the so-called Rand formula in labour law, which mandates that all employees in a unionized shop pay dues, even if they don't join the union.

The governing Liberals said Hudak's proposal to make Ontario a so-called “right-to-work” province is so toxic many Conservatives are afraid it will cost them the next election.

Henry Jacek, political science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the issue is causing real problems for Hudak within Tory ranks.

“There's a lot of internal dissent in the party,” said Jacek. “A lot of people are unhappy inside the party about getting rid of the Rand formula, something we've had for over 60 years.”

Hudak was recently forced to fire the PC candidate in the Windsor riding of Essex, Dave Brister, after he came out against right-to-work.

The Tories said Brister was dropped after he openly attacked PC labour critic Monte McNaughton on Twitter for supporting labour law changes.

“As I told you last year @montemcnaughton I support @timhudak but I don't endorse your Labour Critic support for 'right to work' legislation,” Brister Tweeted Jan. 21.

McNaughton said Wednesday that the Conservatives were “not at all” backing away from right-to-work, which critics say has resulted in lower wages in the many U.S. states where it has been adopted.

“Our policy is about giving workers a choice of whether or not they join a union,” said McNaughton. “No one in Ontario in 2014 should be forced by law to join a union in order to get a job.”

The Liberals also released a leaked audio tape from a PC policy convention last fall in which veteran Tory John O'Toole was applauded by delegates when he warned the party could be “screwed” in the expected spring election by “right-to-work” policies.

The Tories, meanwhile, produced a radio ad Wednesday for the Feb. 13 byelection in Niagara Falls, attacking New Democrat candidate Wayne Gates for saying he wants to see his former union, the Canadian Auto Workers, “take over” the NDP.

The NDP called it an act of desperation and distraction.

“Instead of talking about right-to-work, Hudak is desperately flailing and sinking to new lows with ugly politics that are meant to distract from the fact he has a policy his team won't back,” said NDP labour critic Taras Natyshak.

The New Democrats released a television ad for Niagara Falls that attacks Hudak and the Conservatives for “sitting on the sidelines” but makes no mention of the Liberals.

The ads are a sign the Tories and New Democrats feel they are each other's real competition in Niagara Falls, even though Liberal Kim Craitor held the riding for the past decade.

Hudak held his news conference Wednesday in Thornhill, the site of next week's other byelection, where the Conservatives are fighting hard to hold on to the seat against a strong Liberal challenge.

- See more at: http://www.hrreporter.com/articleview/20116-liberals-claim-many-tories-oppose-tim-hudaks-plan-to-make-union-dues-optional#sthash.Ct0X3LgU.dpuf
Stress Neglected at Work
A new survey finds stress is the most overlooked concern in the workplace, with health and safety professionals saying companies need to pay more attention to the impact of stress on employees.

Stress was identified as the biggest concern in the workplace by 24% of respondents in the MySafetySign Health & Safety Industry Survey. Overwork was a close second with one in five professionals highlighting the issue. Other often overlooked problems included back strain (19%), heavy lifting (16%) and repetitive strain injuries (15%).

Even in manufacturing, where there are risks of physical harm from moving machinery, stress and overwork are two of the top three overlooked threats, just behind repetitive strain injuries.

The report suggests the problem stems from attitudes to health and safety, with 40% of those surveyed saying workers’ attitudes are the main barrier to implementing sound health and safety practices at work.

Twenty percent of respondents said workers don’t understand health and safety risks and 28 percent said small health and safety budgets are holding them back.



 

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