RBC apology won’t change hollowing out of Canadian workforce
TheStar.com – opinion/commentary – We need a government that will change the Harper rules that allowed cheap foreign workers into Canada, as underlined by RBC’s outsourcing IT jobs.
Apr 15 2013. By: Heather Mallick Columnist
There are many shadows lurking behind the news that banks — my emails from frightened and angry readers convince me that I can’t single out merely RBC for this — are using outsourcing firms to perform the delicate task of bringing in lower-paid foreign temps to do work that Canadians had been doing.
Canada is being hollowed out. We suspected this but had never had it bite so deeply.
There are many elements that salt Canadians’ deep anger over this issue. One is our irrational attachment to the Big Five banks, our feeling that since they are Canadian and didn’t melt down in 2008 as banks did planetwide, they are reliable to the point of being parental. They won’t let us down.
In fact, banks let us down all the time and I offer as evidence my savings account, on which I have been losing money for years. A smart journalist said to me two years ago, “Look at Toronto’s bank towers. How long do you think they’re going to sustain that? How long before they empty out?”
She meant that the banks would find someone to do the work en masse more cheaply. We stared at the gold and white and black and tombstone-granite skyscrapers that fill Toronto’s core and contemplated the future.
Stephen Harper’s long-term plan for Canada includes not just the Thatcherite destruction of unions but a clear-out of government workers and a lowering of all wages. The man keeps winning elections because he trusts that voters won’t make the connection and take it personally.
Indeed wages drop slowly, not instantly, and they’re hard to track. But CBC.ca welcomes news tips from the public. Here’s my story, one man wrote, and journalists recognized that the story of one man was in fact the story of many. And that’s when Canada got angry.
Eventually, outsourcing will ravage Canadian office workers. Their loss will become our loss, and that’s what we still don’t grasp. We know about specific bank IT complaints, and teachers’ strikes, but we don’t see the big picture.
The Angry Pyjamas who fume about “overpaid” teachers don’t grasp that teachers pay taxes that fund the free health care that benefits the elderly “grumpy” Conservatives that Martha Hall Findlay joked about in her speech at the Liberal leadership showcase last weekend.
Angry Pyjamas miss a central economic point, mainly because it sounds suspiciously socialist in origin. It is a social good for people to be well paid, whether in the public or private sector, because their salaries are spent on things that keep other people working and salaried well, too.
Government workers inspect our food, issue our passports and clean our hospital rooms. As they are laid off, replaced with outsourced low-paid foreign workers or not replaced at all, our quality of life sinks like a stone. What is true for government workers is also true for the private sector. We need Canadian bank workers to be paid fairly, too.
Banking’s huge profits are galling. In February, one newspaper referred to Gord Nixon, the RBC chief who apologized in an open letter on Friday, as one of the “three wise men of Bay Street.” The others were Ed Clark at TD and Rick Waugh of Scotiabank.
“Good fortune, good decisions and circumstance have placed them in the elite of global finance,” the story gushed, praising their financial acumen (I disagree, if that matters) and praised them in emotional terms.
But in his open letter, Nixon largely ignored finance (himself) and stuck to emotion (you), dotting the letter with these words: heart, quick, listening, apologize, sensitive, helpful, desire, support, confidence, thanking. To his credit, he wasn’t oily, as such. He used a dry oil, which leaves the skin satiny rather than slick.
Dry oil doesn’t sink in, which is why the letter didn’t work. We don’t need Nixon. What we need is a government that will change the Harper rules that allowed cheap foreign workers into Canada in the first place.
Nixon is looking for friends. He will find few. The headline on that story I referred to earlier? It read: “Thanks, Gord Nixon, for ruining it for the rest of us.”
< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/04/15/rbc_apology_wont_change_hollowing_out_of_canadian_workforce_mallick.html >