October 1, 1983 -
Although no one can accurately predict what the long-term effects of microelectronic technology in the workplace will be, it is certain that many jobs will be changed or eliminated and new ones created. Education and retraining opportunities will have to be made available to workers faced with job changes, and labour and management will have to cooperate in adjusting to new developments in the workplace. Labour unions are already beginning to discuss strategy. In September the Canadian Labour Congress held a conference in Toronto on how unions should approach the issue of technological change at the bargaining table. One method for coping with technological job loss favoured by the CLC conference is the implementation of a shorter workweek, and it is safe to predict that this demand will soon become part of the collective bargaining agenda.
In a recent discussion about the effects of the new technology on employment, Dr. Stuart L. Smith, chairman of the Science Council of Canada, recommended the expansion of our human-services sector. He mentioned the need for human contact in nursing homes, day care centres, hospitals, and rehabilitation centres, whereas the tendency has been to cut personnel to the bone to reduce costs. Dr. Smith pointed out that human contact and improved life quality is very valuable in these institutions, although hard to measure. No computer can substitute for the human touch, something which, he said, is especially important as our population ages (Canadian Business, October 1983).