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Turning good jobs into great jobs

Statistics show that almost half of the jobs in the Canadian economy are relatively low-paying service sector jobs.  Because of this, there is a consensus growing among many civic leaders and academics which says that for our economy to adapt and grow and thrive, it is necessary for us to turn these service sector jobs, which tend to be "OK" jobs, into good jobs or even great jobs.
 


December 21, 2009
By Brian Robertson

Topics

In a previous Viewpoint column we talked about the views of Richard
Florida, the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute.  Florida
argues that just as manufacturing jobs needed to become good jobs for
us to all enjoy prosperity under the manufacturing economies that came
about as a result of the industrial revolution, service sector jobs
will also need to become good jobs for us to all prosper in the new
economies that are being created at the beginning of what Florida calls
the Creative Age.

In November, the Martin Prosperity Institute and the City of Toronto
partnered to put on a one-day conference that addressed this topic.
Different participants in the conference had different views on how to
improve the lot of people like security workers who toil everyday in
service class jobs. However, a broad survey of the issues and ideas
raised yields a list of seven key things that employers of service
workers can do to give their employees the kinds of jobs that they will
want to stay in, do well at, and brag to others about having.

Counting down in order of importance, they are:

  • 7. Provide your security workers with a sense that they are part of something bigger.
  • 6. Provide them with opportunities to exercise their creativity,
    solve problems and contribute ideas on how to make things better.
  • 5. Cultivate a commitment to life-long learning by providing ongoing training opportunities.
  • 4. Create career pathways, so that service workers see the jobs they are doing as stepping stones to better service jobs.
  • 3. Replace part-time jobs with full-time jobs, except in cases where workers genuinely only want to work part-time.
  • 2. Provide better pay and better benefits.
  • And the one recommendation that seemed to come out of the Strength in Services conference? (Drum roll, please.) 1. Encourage your employees to belong to a union.

What? It’s simple. The primary difference between employers and unions,
when it comes to making things better for service workers, is that the
view of most employers is that what is good for the company will
ultimately be what is good for its employees, whereas the view of
unions is always that what is good for the employees will ultimately be
what is best for the company.

If you had to choose only one of the seven suggestions set out above,
it would be a no-brainer to choose No. 1, because a union would make it
their business to see that all of the other six came to pass as well. 
Manufacturing jobs didn’t become good jobs because manufacturers were
keen to give their employees more money, more benefits, and more job
security. Manufacturing jobs became good jobs because of strong unions.

The suggestion that the security industry would be better off if all
the workers in it were unionized is not a popular view, and neither is
it practical to suggest employers encourage their employees to join
unions. But the unpalatability of suggestion No. 1 makes suggestions
No. 2 through No. 7 look a lot more appetizing, doesn’t it?
Every security employer out there claims to have great staff who
provide great service. But do security workers ever tell anyone they
have great jobs? If not, we still have great deal of work to do.


Brian Robertson is the president of Diligent Security Training and Consulting.


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