Director’s Message: September 2019

Rafael Gomez

Welcome back to all of you returning to the Centre, and welcome anew to those joining us for the first time!

New Faculty and Visitors

In fact, I wanted to begin my Fall 2019 message by introducing everyone to our newest colleagues. In July of 2019 we welcomed several new faculty. First off, is our new full-time tenure stream faculty member, Prof. Santiago Campero (PhD MIT, 2016), who joins us from HEC Montreal. Santiago will be teaching two Masters level courses this academic year, including a revamped IRE1611H course—now titled Sociology of Work and Organizations—and IRE1609 Strategic Human Resources.

Photo of Santiago Campero
Prof. Santiago Campero

Prof. Padraic Scanlan (PhD Princeton, 2013), who was teaching at the London School of Economics prior to arriving in Toronto, also joined the Centre this summer. He is cross-appointed at the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies (CDTS). Padraic will be teaching undergraduates in the Winter term in our newly revamped IRE199 Why We Work? course, which gives first year students at U of T a chance to experience a small (<30 student) University seminar experience.

Photo of Padraic Scanlan
Prof. Padraic Scanlan


We also welcome Prof. Alica Eads (PhD Cornell, 2017) who is cross-appointed with the Department of Sociology and will be teaching IRE260 Organizational Behaviour in the Winter term. Prof. Eads is also expecting her second child in October, so she will be welcoming a new member to her family soon!

Photo of Alicia Eads
Prof. Alicia Eads

In terms of visitors to the Centre, we would like to first say goodbye to our 2018-19 Visiting PhD student—Liqian Yang—who visited us for the 2018-2019 academic year from Renmin University in Beijing, China. As a doctoral student at Renmin University’s School of Labor and Human Resources, Liqian completed two papers on Chinese unions and followership while based here.

While we say goodbye, we also say hello to Dr. Dan Samosh (Phd Queens, 2019) who recently defended his thesis on health and work and who will be joining the Centre as a Post-doctoral research fellow under the joint supervision of myself and Dr. Emile Tompa.

Sad Goodbyes

Photo of Chris Schenk in front of bookcases
Dr. Chris Schenk

As we celebrate the arrival of new faces to CIRHR, it is with much sadness that we also had to bid farewell to an old friend and supporter of the Centre, Dr. Chris Schenk. Chris was a prominent and much loved member of the organized labour community in Ontario and also a long standing lecturer here at the Centre. He was also a well-known author and researcher and served as a member of the Sefton-Williams award selection committee (he himself was a winner in 2011) for many years.

On October 5th, 2019 CIRHR will be hosting a celebration of life event for Chris’ family, friends and colleagues. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Chris Schenk Memorial Award, which has been established at the CIRHR at the family’s request in support of a MIRHR student specializing in Labour Relations.

Photo of Eric Cousineau
Dr. Eric Cousineau

It is with heavy hearts that we also announce the passing of a long-time friend of the Centre and Professor of Compensation, Dr. Eric Cousineau. An expert in his field and mentor to many generations of MIRHR students, we will miss Eric’s presence. Speaking personally, Eric was responsible for my own journey in industrial relations, helping me complete an important paper on NHL player salaries, when I was a graduate student, that ended up becoming part of my PhD thesis. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this moment.


Other Faculty, Staff and PhD News

Photo of Dionne Pohler
Prof. Dionne Pohler

Two new exciting pieces of information for one of our existing faculty members, Prof. Dionne Pohler. In June 2019 it was confirmed that Dionne achieved tenure and has now been promoted to Associate Professor Status at the University of Toronto. Based on this milestone, we are very fortunate that Dionne has assumed a major administrative role at the Centre becoming Associate Director, Undergraduate and PhD Programs beginning July 1st.

In addition, as of July 1st, 2019 Prof. Pohler will take over as the CIBC Chair in Youth Employment (previously held by Prof. Morley Gunderson from 1998-2018). Congratulations Dionne!

In June 2019 one of our PhD alumni—Prof. Danielle Lamb (Assistant Professor, Ryerson University)—was awarded the 2018 Best Paper Competition: LERA/ILR Review Special Series in Employment Relations for “Unions and Non-Standard Work: Union Representation and Wage Premiums across Non-Standard Work Arrangements in Canada, 1997–2014” co-authored Rafael Gomez and Danielle Lamb.

In May 2019 one of our current PhDs—Yao Yao—received CIRA’s Allen Ponak Best Student Paper Award. The Ponak Award is CIRA’s distinction given to the best student paper presented at the annual conference. Graduate students are invited to submit papers that proceed through a blind review process to determine acceptance for presentation at the conference and the winner of the competition. The award-winning paper “Uberizing the Legal Profession? Lawyer Autonomy and Status in the Digital Legal Market” has now been published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations.

In March 2019 Prof. Greg Distelhorst was awarded the prestigious IACMR-RRBM Award for Responsible Research in Management for his co-authored paper: "Does lean improve labor standards? Management and social performance in the Nike supply chain." This was one of only three distinguished winner awards provided by IACMR-RRBM.

Also in March, Guenther Lomas (PhD Candidate, 2019) was the keynote speaker in at the prestigious Colloquium on Personnel Economics 2019 in Augsburg, Germany. The organizers even decided to assign your presentation to a plenary session. The paper on which the talk was based "Employee involvement and overall job satisfaction: Evidence from four Anglo-American economies" was published in June in the Journal of Participation and Economic Organization.

Finally, we are proud to highlight IRHR Library Vicki Skelton’s appointment to the Centre for Labour Management Relations (CLMR) advisory board. The CLMR promotes contemporary, collaborative, equitable, fair, and progressive approaches for labour and management to work better together, and with other stakeholders (e.g., academia, community, government, law, media, and policy).

New Initiatives

Photo of the session leaders presenting as a panelIn spring 2019 CIRHR partnered with Lancaster House Publishing (our long-standing partner in hosting major labour relations conferences and co-sponsor of the annual Bora Laskin Award) to offer alumni and other related IR professionals an executive learning experience. The theme for 2019 was “Mental Health at Work” and was provided by expert in the field Dr. Michael Condra. Two sessions were held, one in Toronto and one in Edmonton. Our goal is to continue to offer professional and executive learning opportunities covering new and emerging themes in the work of work and HR.

Our PhDs began a self-organized invited luncheon talk, aimed at bringing in various players in the field of IR/HR to come talk to our doctoral students. Organizing a lunch with a professor in the field of Industrial Relations and Human Resource has now become a tradition student’s look forward to. In December 2018, they met with Dr. Angela Hildyard, of the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at OISE, U of T. Dr. Hilyard is the former Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity at the University of Toronto and currently serves as special adviser to the president and provost. She spoke to doctoral students about her role as a senior Academic negotiator and about labour relations issues here at the university. 

Photo of the Changing Face of Work Banners on display Following on the heels of our successful first CIRHR public exhibit (co-sponsored with Woodsworth College)—The Changing Face of Work—we have now embarked on a new theme for 2019-20; the question of why we work. The exhibit, not surprisingly, is titled Why We Work and it will explore the differing conceptions of work over time and space and feature dramatic visuals to emphasize the message that work is not ‘one thing’ and is often times socially constructed and influenced. As a footnote, our first exhibit, which looked at how work has changed in the 50 years since the Centre was established, has been on loan and is currently being displayed in Queens University (Kingston ON) in their MIR program.

Finally, in terms of new initiatives we would like to thank Prof. Greg Distelhorst for starting the Work in Progress (WIP) seminar in 2018-19. Greg created this series essentially from scratch, and despite crowded schedules and busy lives, the seminars were not only well attended, but the first year saw a nice mix of CIRHR faculty and PhDs present and share their work. In 2019-20 Prof. Santiago Campero has agreed to be the lead organizer and Greg has agreed to be the first speaker on Sep 25th!

Annual Events and Awards

Rodney C. Cook
Rodney C. Cook

What do we really know about the gender wage gap?Our two major lectures and award ceremonies were quite memorable this year, beginning with the Morley Gunderson Lecture in Labour Economics and Industrial Relations—co-hosted with the Department of Economics and Woodsworth College—in the Fall of 2018 with the November 16 lecture by Prof. Francine Blau (Cornell ILR School) on “What Do We Really Know About the Gender Wage Gap?” At that event, the 2018 Morley Gunderson Prize—given to a prominent MIRHR graduate—was presented to Rodney C. Cook who currently is the Vice President, Workplace Health and Safety Services at Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Nominate a former MIRHR grad now! Do you know an alumn—or current student—from one of our programs who has combined outstanding professional achievement with significant service to the Centre? Nominations for the 2019 Morley Gunderson Prize may be submitted by current students, graduates, faculty and staff to

What makes Labour Free? (And Why this Question Matters)In spring 2019 we co-hosted the annual Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture, which this year was held on March 28. Professor Judy Fudge delivered a provocative talk entitled “What makes Labour Free? (And Why this Question Matters)”, which generated lots of discussion afterwards. The 2019 Sefton-Williams award was fittingly given to Prof. Fudge’s long-time collaborator and co-author Eric M. Tucker (Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University).

Our Directors Debate series was quite well represented in the fall of 2018. On November 1st we welcomed Dr. Otto Kässi and Armine Yalnizyan who spoke on “How is the world of online work changing?” Then on November 14 we welcomed Ludwig Frahm-Arp and Shamima Gaibie who spoke on the theme of “The State of South African Labour Law and Workplace Relations.” Then on November 16 we welcomed Professor Lawrence M. Kahn (Cornell ILR School) who spoke on the theme of “Is There Still Past, Present, Future: The Challenges and Value of Organized LabourSon Preference in the United States?" In the Spring (March 13, 2019) we had a more normal pace of events welcoming one speaker—Dr. Christo Aivalis (Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of History)—to speak on “Past, Present, Future: The Challenges and Value of Organized Labour”, this was a jointly sponsored session with our undergraduate student association (ERSA Research Series).

In March 2019, CIRHR students from IRE1635 Collective Bargaining and IRE1338 Law of the Workplace faced off against representatives from the MIR program at Queen's University and Graduate Certificate students from Seneca College at the 2019 Inter-University Negotiation Competition. The annual event, intended to test students’ bargaining skills, consisted of a multi-party industrial relations problem based on the construction industry. Each student portrayed a unique role and faced off with a combination of other students in one of five of the negotiation rooms in the Centre. Our team of fifteen students devoted much energy to preparing and completing the competition and placed a close second in the competition. Three of our students, Hao (Jerry) Zhang, Emily Niles, and Maisha Uddin, were recognized for achieving the top score in their role category, and two of our students, Natalia Yutovets and Emily Niles, were recognized for being a part of the group that achieved the top solution to the problem. This was the second year in a row that the CIRHR has hosted the event, with the support of staff and faculty, in particular Prof. Bob Thompson who notes that much credit goes to our students, too: “They act as such great ambassadors. They were the consummate hosts and true specialists in their field.”Simon Parkin (left) and Rafael Gomez pose with Parkin's book and the CIRHR banner

Finally, on June 6, 2019, we hosted our semi-annual Spring Alumni Event, where lots of familiar faces returned to the Centre for an informal mix and mingle and to listen to a thematic talk on the subject of “Turning Recruiting into Your Competitive Advantage,” which was given by well-known HR consultant and author Simon Parkin.

All in all, it’s been an eventful 2018-19 academic term and we should all be proud of the collective accomplishments of our group. In a follow up message later this term, I will highlight all of the amazing initiatives and events that are on tap for the 2019-20 academic year!


Rafael Gomez
Director, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources
Professor of Employment Relations
University of Toronto
Summer 2019