Director’s Message for the 2017-2018 Academic Year

Welcome back for some and a brand new welcome for others. This is the 52nd year of the Centre’s existence and the forty-second incoming class of Masters students we have welcomed to CIRHR. Our undergraduate, certificate and doctoral programs are now all over three decades old and still growing. For this we have to be thankful but also proud, in the sense that our staff, faculty and students have all contributed to the Centre’s excellence in teaching, service and research.

The world of work, which the Centre has for so many years examined and taught students about, is also now back in the spotlight. After many years of being bypassed by areas such as technology and the world of finance, today major front-page sections of newspapers and journals are devoted to issues involving the changing nature of work and what kind of employment relations system we think will (and perhaps more importantly “should”) emerge in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, CIRHR Professors and graduates have been at the forefront of these endeavours. It is our goal to ensure that clear headed and rational discussions of major policy issues occur in the area of work and employment. To this end we have quite a year ahead.

In fact the year started early with a Cuban Labour Relations Workshop held here on campus on Friday September 15th. The one day workshop – co-hosted by the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL), Osgoode Hall Law School and Woodsworth College — brought together labour experts from Cuba along with local experts to discuss how labour reforms in Cuba, that deal with expanding the overview and protection of workers in newly privatised sectors, could be understood from the perspective of our own labour law changes in Ontario. Much was learned on both sides and a commitment to continued knowledge exchange was promised.

The Cuban conference set the stage nicely for students looking into expanding their international experience. On this front we have two exciting programs on offer.

In our graduate program, we are offering IRE 1600H once again, which studies the intersection between trade and labour. MIRHR students are brought face-to face with international agencies and experts, such as the ILO in Geneva and the OECD in Paris, in a course that combines in-class lectures here at the University with a field-trip experience and special lectures overseas. Offered in the summer by Professor Anil Verma and Jeffrey Sack, and with funding for travel and accommodation provided, more details will emerge in the coming months.

For undergraduates, we are changing our much beloved experiential consulting course IRE 446H, to incorporate a funded international component in Iceland. Professor Lori Riznek is leading this course and senior (3rd/4th year) students in the major and specialist Employment Relations program have already applied and are being interviewed by Lori for the course. The trip will occur in the Winter term and students will present their findings at a public event before the end of the 2018 term, so stay tuned.

On a more local level, the Centre will be entering the University of Toronto Quality Assurance Program (UTQAP) review stage, which is mandated to occur at least once every 8 years and will require faculty, staff and student involvement. Representation from student groups is crucially important though, because in order to assess the quality and services of our program offerings at both the undergraduate and graduate level, we need to hear from you the students in question.

There are also some important upcoming events this term that you should mark on your collective calendars. On Thursday November 2nd, 2017 the Centre will host the 3rd annual Morley Gunderson Lecture in Labour Economics and Industrial Relations, which we co-sponsor with the Department of Economics and Woodsworth College. The talk will be given by distinguished Professor Craig Riddell (UBC) at the Campbell Centre (Munk School of Global Affairs). The talk, titled “What Do Unions do to Wage Inequality? The Roles of Gender, Skill and Public Sector Employment”, is promising to be eye opener in terms of some of the implications that falling unionisation has had on wage outcomes for workers across many parts of Canada, the US and globally.

Also on November 14, 2017, Professor Mathew Dimick (University of Buffalo School of Law) will present in the Fall term Director’s Debate series on “The Politics of Wage Regulation in Rich Democracies”. This will be a provocative talk, based on original research, is one that will generate lots of discussion I’m sure. As with all talks at the Centre, the Directors debate is open to staff, faculty, current students and alumni but seating will be limited so be sure to RSVP when the time comes to register.

In building news, thanks to the work of a student-staff-faculty committee in 2016-17 and some waterproofing work to an exterior wall over the summer, CIRHR in partnership with the University of Toronto’s facilities management team, have a plan to modernize the basement of 121 St. George. This will involve a kitchen and common area renovation along with a student/staff/faculty lounge room improvement. The basement as a whole will also get a fresh paint job and thorough cleaning. This work will likely start in the Fall of 2017 with a plan to open our new basement common area in the new year.

Thank you and all the best for the coming year ahead,


Rafael Gomez
Director, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources
Professor of Employment Relations
University of Toronto
September 2017