Canadian unions providing Covid-19 Resources for members

Although unions are not unaware of the long-term perspective of the Covid-19 pandemic – as for example, in “New Social Contract can rebuild our workplaces and economies after COVID-19” by Sharan Burrow of the ITUC – the main focus for Canadian unions seems to be to actively respond with policy advocacy and practical information covid19 logoresources for their members. The Canadian Labour Congress has built a dedicated Covid-19 Resource Centre which includes policy positions and demands, as well as fact sheets useful for individuals – for example, regarding legislated sick leave provisions in each province, or community information regarding domestic violence resources.

The CLC has also compiled an exhaustive collection of links to the Covid-19 information of individual unions across Canada and the U.S., here . Although there are differences among unions, most are compiling and updating resources and links which provide specific information for their members, especially regarding their health and safety rights and the financial supports available in the crisis. Some examples:  Amalgamated Transit Union ;  Canadian Union of Postal Workers  ; Public Service Alliance of Canada ; United Steelworkers; and Unifor  .

Other unions such as NUPGE or the Vancouver District Labour Council   are focused on advocacy and demands for government action for front line workers.  Toronto and York Region Labour Council  and the B.C. Federation of Labour provide both. Check the complete listings at the CLC website for the wide range of information available, and also check the list of  advocacy and organizing resources at the Broadbent Institute, constantly updated by Dr. Jennifer Robson.

Covid19HELP_Demands_ftAnother important resource for frontline workers:  Ontario’s  Fight For $15& Fairness  campaign  for Health Emergency Labour Protections (HELP).  Their demands for emergency health leaves and reforms to EI requirements in the Covid-19 situation are outlined here and here in French

These demands are also endorsed by the Decent Work and Health Network  in their press release .  Like  Fight For $15& Fairness, the DWHN is sponsoring a petition, as well as organizing a Zoom-based webinar for health workers in COVID-19, on April 1.

 

Can the fight against COVID-19 help the climate change fight?

With the world reeling under the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are trying to make sense of our disrupted world, and find lessons and hope for the fight against climate change.

One thoughtful and useful article is  “Can COVID-19 create a turning point in the fight against climate change?”,  which appeared in Medium on March 13.  Acknowledging that the pandemic is distracting attention and resources from the climate fight, author Kaveh Madani  argues that “The COVID-19 crisis is teaching us some lessons and implementing some reforms that are essential for success in mitigating the climate crisis.” Specifically, economic and financial reforms; reduction of GHG emissions; the move to “virtual life”, including teleworking; reduction of aviation travel and consumerism; the importance of science; the interconnectedness of our global world, and conversely, the importance of individual action.

Another widely-cited article  appeared in Fast Company, “What would happen if the world reacted to climate change like it’s reacting to the coronavirus? . The article quotes May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, who finds hope in the fact that: “We’ve seen that governments can act, and people can change their behavior, in a very short amount of time… And that’s exactly what the climate movement has been asking governments and people to do for years in the face of a different kind of threat—the climate crisis.”  The downside? The response to the climate threat has not been as swift and strong, which she attributes to the perception that it is a “ somewhat distant problem, despite the growing number of climate-related disasters that happen every year”, and because “in the climate crisis, powerful companies have a lot to lose if the world acts decisively, and with the virus, though many people are losing money, there’s no similarly massive opposition to trying to address the problem.”

Two articles on March 15 in The Energy Mix explore how the Coronavirus has disrupted the oil and gas industry, and how that may help the climate fight.   “Coronavirus Triggers OPEC+ Breakup, Drives Deepest Oil Price Dive in 29 Years” (March 15)  summarizes the geopolitics and oil price collapse;  “Oil War and Covid-19 Create Risk, Opportunity for Clean Energy”  (March 15)  summarizes the opinions of several market analysts who argue that “It doesn’t make sense to reduce your investment in renewables if the oil price crashes …It’s more logical to reduce your investment in oil.”  Amongst possible benefits:  governments would reduce fossil fuel subsidies and redirect funding to health priorities, and  investment redirected to clean energy would strengthen that sector.

Finally, Avi Lewis of The Leap wrote a Globe and Mail Opinion piece, “In the midst of converging crises, the Green New Deal is the answer in which he argues: ” In the midst of all these terrifying and converging disasters, this is perhaps the greatest opportunity – to shatter the shackles of austerity thinking and see the potential for government to do big things, like actually lead a democratic and inclusive response to the climate emergency at the speed and scale that science and justice require.”

Fewer jobs will be needed in Alberta’s oil sands according to Parkland report

parkland futureofalbertasoilsands_coverThe latest of several reports by the Parkland Institute and Corporate Mapping Project  was released on March 10:  The Future of Alberta’s Oil Sands Industry : More Production, Less Capital, Fewer Jobs .  Author Ian Hussey  argues that a managed decline of the industry is needed, and that it is now in its mature phase – with  53,119 jobs lost between 2014 through 2019.  With this maturity comes fewer construction projects, and technological change is driving down operational employment. Although most people are aware of the adoption of driverless trucks, Hussey also discusses  horizontal multi-well drilling pads; supervisory control and data acquisition, remote monitoring, and information technology and analytics; and replicated designs and modularization.   In sum,

“Despite the growth in production, fewer and fewer employees are needed. In 2019, overall productivity per employee in Canada’s oil and gas industry was 47% higher than in 2011, and productivity in the oil sands was 72% higher in 2019 than 2011. This indicates that the jobs that have been lost in recent years are likely not coming back. Production is at an all-time high and has increased 23% since 2014, while jobs have declined by 23% since 2014.”

The report also profiles the “ Big Five” oil and gas companies operating in Alberta:  Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Imperial Oil, Cenovus Energy, and Husky Energy – providing statistics on their production, reserves,  profits and shareholder returns, and capital spending.

Alberta’s government continues to prop up oil and gas industry with new Blueprint for Jobs, penalties for protesters

As Teck Mines and other  private sector investors rush away from oil and gas investment in Alberta and the price of oil collapses, the Alberta Legislature resumed on February 24, with a  Budget  and a new economic plan: A Blueprint for Jobs: Getting Alberta Back to Work . The Blueprint is built on five pillars: “Supporting businesses; Freeing job creators from senseless red tape; Building infrastructure; Developing skills; Selling Alberta to the world.”  Announced in a March 2 press release as the first step  in the Blueprint:  a $100 million loan to the Orphan Well Association,  promising to generate up to 500 direct and indirect jobs by financing reclamation of abandoned mining sites. The press release also promises  a future “suite” of announcements “covering the entire lifecycle of wells from start to finish”.   As The Narwhal  reports in  “Alberta loans industry-funded association $100 million to ‘increase the pace’ oftes orphan well cleanup (March 2),  this latest loan follows a 2017 loan of $235 million , as the industry-levies which fund the Orphan Wells Association fail to keep pace with the environmental mess left behind by bankrupt mining companies.

The Alberta Federation of Labour  released a statement in response to the Alberta Budget ,  “Kenney’s Budget breaks promises, delivers opposite of what Albertans voted for last year” . The AFL charges that the budget will result in more than 1,400 job cuts, especially in education (244 jobs lost), agriculture (277 jobs lost), and community and social services (136 jobs lost). Further, “Today’s budget increases the deficit by $1 billion because of this government’s short-sighted overreliance on resource revenues, while cutting billions in revenue from corporations.” A similar sentiment appeared from an opposite corner:  an Opinion piece in the mainstream Toronto Globe and Mail states: “The cost of Mr. Kenney’s inaction on economic diversification will be high. Alberta has the advantage of being home to many skilled clean-tech and renewable-energy workers already, but the speed at which the world is innovating in that area means that a lagging Alberta will result in the emigration of some of our best and brightest entrepreneurs.”

Updated:  

The Alberta Federation of Labour released another statement on March 16 , condemning the Budget proposal as an “  ideological budget that does not fit the times”.  Further, it is  “no longer worth the paper it’s written on. The revenue side of the budget is in tatters because oil is now trading nearly $30 per barrel less than projected” , and because of the Covid-19 crisis, the planned cuts to health care “will hurt, not help our province.”   The AFL is demanding that the Budget be scrapped, but the CBC reported on March 16, “Alberta government plans to accelerate budget process, add $500M to health spending” , reporting that the government dramatically curtailed study and debate , and on March 17, CBC reported “Alberta legislature approves $57-billion budget in race against COVID-19 spread”.

For those concerned about the erosion of the democratic process under the threat of the pandemic, this is a worrying sign.

And not the first worrisome sign in Alberta:  the first order of business in the new Session was  Bill 1, The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act , introduced by Premier Kenney. As described in a National Observer article here  , the Bill  proposes to discourage citizen protest by making it easier for police to intervene in blockades, and proposes individual fines for protesters of up to $10,000 for a first offence, and up to $25,000 for each subsequent day a blockade or protest remained in place. The Alberta Federation of Labour released a statement on March 6 calling on the government to withdraw the Bill immediately, stating that the justification (ie protection of rail lines) is misleading, and “The legislation is clearly designed to stop or discourage all collective action that goes against the UCP agenda, including potential labour or worker action.”

 

 

Sciences received 770% more funding than the social sciences for climate change research

A new and innovative study measures the problem of underfunded social science research into climate change.  “Misallocation of climate research funding“addresses an important issue, since the social sciences seek to understand human and societal attitudes, norms, incentives, and policies – without which understanding, scientific facts seem insufficient to motivate change.  The authors analyzed a new dataset of research grants awarded in 37 countries, including Canada, from 1950 to 2021- a database which represents a cumulative budget of $1.3 trillion U.S.  Included in the category of social sciences research grants were those relevant to the world of work: economics, sociology, business and management, psychology, and law.

The researchers report that:

“Between 1990 and 2018, the natural and technical sciences received 770% more funding than the social sciences for research on issues related to climate change. Only 0.12% of all research funding was spent on the social science of climate mitigation.”  Even the countries identified as spending the most on social science climate research in absolute terms—the UK, the USA, and Germany—spent between 500% and 1200% more on climate research in the natural and technical sciences than on social sciences.

The authors discuss the challenges and potential solutions to promote and improve social science research, including:

  • Funding for climate mitigation needs to match the magnitude of the threat and the narrow window of opportunity for dealing with it.
  • There is a need for better global coordination and oversight of funding for climate research….most obviously, this could reduce redundancy and serve as a mechanism for research teams to identify synergies and possible collaborators.
  • More rigorous social science research is needed…the authors state “Brandt et al. noted that methods were often chosen based on familiarity or specialization of the researchers involved, rather than their suitability for a given research question.”
  • Better alignment with emissions sources and trends… “Some of the funding for climate change-related social science research follows the thematic logic of natural science funding, which does not necessarily fit the social sciences.”
  • Climate change is a global challenge, and therefore, the authors advocate the  use of  “the problem, challenge, or mission-based approach”. They use the example of one such project,  the Global Challenges Research Fund in the United Kingdom, which asked “How can sustainable development be achieved for all while addressing global climate change?”. They urge putting research into the context of challenging, “big picture”questions,  to promote “focused but interdisciplinary social science work.”

Misallocation of climate research funding” is available online now as an Open Access article, and  will appear in print in the April 2020 issue of Energy Research and Social Science. It describes the details of the database analysis  and lists the funding agencies from 37 countries, which included all major member states of the OECD,  as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. The relatively few agencies listed from Canada are overwhelmingly science and health –related, with the notable exceptions of the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC), the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research (ACCFCR), and by far the largest, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), acw-logo-transparent-copy which funds the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW ) research project.