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Lecture 9

HREQ 2010 Lecture 9: November 28

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Human Rights and Equity Studies
HREQ 2010
Paul Brienza

Basic Aspects of Workers’ Rights: -workers’ rights in a capitalist society is premised on free labour: free in choosing the place and condition of work, which translates into the idea that they have the right to take their work elsewhere -we in our society make the claim that labour is free ^-the very idea of slavery is that this particular labour is not free, as they are objectified and seen as property -we speak of free labour in particular -how do we experience this? We are able to leave our job if we wish to -free labour market: people move freely in and out of the labour market -labour in our society is not oppressed or controlled -this freedom we associate with the modern world -free nature of labour -work is a contract between the worker and the employer: a particular economic idea that is central to capitalism, this particular type of economic system -we are tied to a wage level: this is also in contrast to slavery or feudal-type systems, whereby people were tied to the land and the product of their labour, and thus, viewed as property -work is thus susceptible to the conditions of the labour market 1) Free labour: free movement 2) Wage labour: receive wages in exchange for the time devoted to the work: contract -labour is part of a market, and is like any other commodity market -labour is likewise a market -it is determined by the same thing that determine the price of other products, that is a relationship between supply and demand, and is thus, a major factor in the determinant of the price of labour -labour is in high demand in the economy and in certain industries -there are many different labour markets, which is depended on the labour market one is in -bring with them different levels of supply and demand -if demand is high, that will translate to higher wages -low demand of labour translates to lower wages -certain industries don’t require many specialized skills -there is a structural aspect to capitalist wage markets that translates into an interest in maintaining an appropriate level of unemployment: there is an economic interest on the part of many employers to have unemployment -structural benefit to our particular type of economic system (capitalist) to have unemployment -allow employers to dictate terms much more effectively -employers are much more capable of dictating terms to their employers than those in high skilled labours, especially due to the supply issue -if one is a buyer of labour (unskilled market), you are much better off than someone who is selling that labour -the labour market tends to work for the benefit of the buyers, the companies and corporations who buy labour and hire individuals -there are structural elements of employment and the way labour is treated in society -thus, the real unemployment rate and level will be significantly higher if we include all these factors, which are normally hidden (political desire to hide these factors) Employment Standards: -we live in a capitalist wage system -unskilled labourers tend to do much worse than skilled labourers -trend over the last 30-40 years: the jobs being lost are in unskilled labour markets, the traditional working class ^-alludes to class structure: numerous studies have been done that has shown that it is very difficult to leave one’s class if they’re of the lower class..difficult to rise from the lower to upper- class -in practical dream, these goals such as the American Dream is very rare and statistically insignificant -class structure is becoming much more static and thus, affecting particularly the middle and lower-classes more than it is the upper-classes -those of the middle class are dropping to the lower class due to their unskilled work -every worker possesses rights -people entering the workforce without an awareness of their rights -there are these general rules: Rights around: 1) Hours of work: apply to most workers, but may vary significantly across Canada and within different industries..employers cannot refuse to pay overtime rates and cannot force workers to work excessive hours, nor can they fire workers or have them deported if they refuse or complain about overtime work..hours of work overtime are regulated by law: this threat of extra work cannot be used 2) Minimum wage: lowest wage rate that an employer can may a worker, which may vary between industries and areas..the basic level at which any individual will be paid hourly..this sets up a kind of basic wage level, but is not of course significant in some ways for a couple of reasons..if one is working full time hours, technically, it is difficult to determine if that is above the poverty line (keeping people above the poverty line is the goal of the minimum wage)..we have seen the rise of the working welfare benefits have declined, we have seen many people enter this strange category, in which they work full time and yet are still living in is not a guarantee of decent living standard..illegal immigration: let’s remove illegal immigration: who benefits from illegal immigrant labourer? Corporations and companies: why pay an individual a higher wage when there are others available who are willing to pay at a lower rate or wage (these individuals will not expose this because of fear) 3) Vacation and vacation pay: another aspect of workers’ rights..must review 2 weeks of paid vacation after completing 1 year with an employer: many and virtually all of these rules apply to full time workers: employers will purposely keep their workers below full time work in order to avoid paying for this 4) Public holidays: are mandatory and, for those who do work, overtime must be paid 5) Meal breaks: covers breaks for meals and other forms of breaks Workplace Health and Safety: -a huge concern and problem in society -all workers in Canada have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment -10,000 people that annually die from unsafe working conditions, in which the employer is violating the law..these are employers who purposely don’t follow safety standards -fundamental element of the labour market 1) The right to refuse unsafe work: unawareness of this right due to fear of losing job..obscure aspect of this (difficulty that employees will encounter that are much more difficult to overcome) 2) Getting hurt at work: e.g. miners: there have been numerous cases in the past, in which these workers have experienced health issues due to the dangerous working conditions: workers may be subjected to harsh working conditions due to the employer’s demands -there is this idea that it is often cheaper to litigate and go to court and pay the worker or their families than it is to put safe conditions in place, which is deeply concerning for workers -e.g.: Ford vehicles: in their logic, they were aware of the flaw in the cars, but did a cost-benefit analysis, in which they discovered that it would be cheaper for individuals to die (200 people) in these kinds of accidents, and pay them out in litigation than it would be to fix the flaw in the automobile, which would have costed them $3 per car -weighing the cost of safety and the possible litigation and resources available to these corporations and companies Human Rights and Workers: 1) Discrimination: this involves refusing the hiring of workers on the basis of “race, religion, ethnic origin, skin colour, sex, age, marital status, disability or sexual orientation” (Service Canada). CCRF and Employment Standards Act make this explicit..there is an obscure element to this, which social scientists have tried to capture, but it is difficult to determine when one is discriminated against a worker..racial and gender prejudices are very difficult to track, as, very rarely do employers explicitly give this reasoning, and thus, is difficult to manage and even know about in terms of actual numbers 2) Harassment: employers or other workers may unfairly discriminate against others through hurtful comments (based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). Here the question may be whether or not someone is being unfairly treated or excluded from the normal benefits and conditions of the work contract..some statistics claim that 1 or 2 out of every 5 women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment in the workplace..many women may be disempowered to report these is underreported..there were high levels of racial harassment occurring in the RCMP 3) Additional Categories -human rights and the workplace are limited to the context of the work environment itself -however, workers’ rights may also extend beyond the workplace -for example: ^-do in
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