Director’s Message: Summer 2018

July 12, 2018 by CIRHR Communications

The world of work has been in the news for much of this past year, from the changes to labour and employment law that took effect in January, to the record-setting strike at York University this spring.

It has been a busy year at the CIRHR too, with new and returning faces coming to the Centre and valued members of our community setting off on exciting next steps.

Throughout it all, there have been events bringing us, and our broader communities of Industrial Relations and Human Resources scholars and practitioners, together at the CIRHR.

The year began with the Cuban Labour Relations Workshop, co-hosted in September with the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL), Osgoode Hall Law School and Woodsworth College, which brought together labour experts from Cuba along with local experts to discuss how labour reforms in Cuba could be understood from the perspective of our own labour law changes in Ontario.

On November 2nd, 2017, the Centre hosted the 3rd annual Morley Gunderson Lecture in Labour Economics and Industrial Relations, which we co-sponsor with the Department of Economics and Woodsworth College. Professor Emeritus of Economics Craig Riddell (UBC) presented “What Do Unions do to Wage Inequality? The Roles of Gender, Skill and Public Sector Employment” and discussed some of the implications that falling unionisation has had on wage outcomes for workers across many parts of Canada, the US and globally. The 2017 Co-Winners of the Morley Gunderson Prize in Industrial Relations were Michael Villeneuve and Clara Addo-Bekoe.

This year we had three public lectures as part of the CIRHR Directors Debate Series. These public talks are aimed at students and alumni of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources program and those interested in real-world HR and Labour Relations issues. On November 14, 2017, Dr. Mathew Dimick (University of Buffalo School of Law) presented “The Politics of Wage Regulation in Rich Democracies”. On December 15, 2015, Dr. Byron Lee (PhD, CIRHR 2011) presented “High Performance / Investment Work System and Employee Creativity: multilevel, control perspective.” In the winter term, Dr. Alan Benson (University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Carlson School of Management) presented “A Stitch in Time: Work Complexity and the Divergent Effects of Employee Monitoring on Productivity.”

This year’s Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture was “Dependence & Precarity in the ‘Sharing Economy’" by Dr. Juliet Schor (Boston College). At the event on March 29, 2018,  Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mumme (York University) was presented with the Sefton-Williams Award for Contributions to Industrial Relations.

The event was also the official launch of the CIRHR’s The Changing Face of Work. This public exhibit created by the CIRHR Library with sponsorship help from Woodsworth College, aims to introduce students and the broader University of Toronto community to the ‘world of work’. The exhibit—whose content and research was provided by Caitlin MacLeod and Victoria Skelton—reflects developments over the past fifty years and notable research conducted by CIRHR faculty and other industrial relations scholars in four topical areas of working life—the Office, Technology, Unions, and Diversity.

On April 4th, 2018, Dr. Travor Brown (CIRHR PhD 1999) Associate Dean (Research) Memorial University delivered a PhD Seminar on academic careers in Industrial Relations.

The Centre was well represented at the annual Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA) conference, May 2-4 2018 at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Many CIRHR faculty, doctoral students, and alumni attended and presented. The CIRA conference also set the countdown to the 2020 International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) Regional Congress of the Americas, which CIRA will host in Toronto. 

The 70th Annual Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) meeting and conference was held in Baltimore, Maryland from June 14-17, 2018. CIRHR faculty and current and former PhD students attended and presented papers on a range of topics including: conflict resolution, labour conditions and private regulation in global supply chains, occupational regulation of HR professionals, and corporate social responsibility. 

In June, we were visited by three eminent IR/HR academics, Professors John Budd (University of Minnesota), Richard Chaykowski (Queen’s University) and Anthony Nyberg (University of South Carolina) as part of the University of Toronto’s Quality Assurance Program (UTQAP). Thank you to all of the students, alumni, faculty, and staff who have contributed to the ongoing review process, which will help us grow and produce an even better set of academic programs.

Turning now to the many accomplishments of the CIRHR community, the Centre’s newest doctoral graduate, Dr. Elham Marzi, successfully defended her thesis in March. Elham’s thesis is titled “The Role of Empowerment on the Relationship between Flexible Work Arrangements, Work Life Balance, and Job Satisfaction in the Canadian Public Sector” (supervisor Prof. Gary Latham). Elham has begun a position at U of T Engineering as Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream).

Dr. Tingting Zhang (CIRHR PhD 2017) was named the winner of the Labor and Employment Relations Association’s 2018 Thomas A. Kochan and Stephen R. Sleigh Best Dissertation Awards Competition. Tingting's dissertation, “The Regulation of Occupations and Labour Market Outcomes in Canada: Three Essays on the Relationship between Occupational Licensing, Earnings, and Internal Labour Mobility,” was completed in 2017.

In other community news, Michael Fitzgibbon, who has taught for the past 18 years in the IRHR undergraduate program, has a new firm and website. Mike Pedersen (MIR 1988) was appointed as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) in March. In May, Armine Yalnizyan (MIR 1985) was appointed the new Atkinson Foundation Fellow on the Future of Workers.

The past year has brought arrivals and departures to the CIRHR as well.

In May, we said goodbye to Sangeeta Jeyakumar, who was with us over the past year and who has returned to her role at the Institute for Aerospace Studies. Joanna Jiang has returned to the CIRHR and her role as Centre Coordinator after her maternity leave.

On July 1st we said goodbye to CIRHR Visiting Professor Daphne Taras, who has been with us through the 2017-2018 academic year. Fortunately, Daphne will remain close by as she has been appointed dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University! She began her appointment as dean, Ted Rogers School of Management on July 1st.

On July 1st, the Centre also welcomed its newest faculty member, Greg Distelhorst, who comes to us from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Greg will be a familiar face to members of the CIRHR community who attended the Sefton/Williams Memorial Lecture in March, the LERA conference in June, or Greg’s own CIRHR Lunchtime Seminar in February, “A Firm-level Race to the Bottom? Labor Standards and Global Purchasing Practices.”

All in all, it’s been an eventful 2017-18 academic term and we should all be proud of the collective accomplishments of our group!



Rafael Gomez

Director, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources

Professor of Employment Relations

University of Toronto

July 2018