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How Not to “Create” Jobs

April 1, 1984 -

With one and a half million Canadians currently unemployed, everyone agrees that job creation should be our primary objective. There is much less agreement about how to realize this goal. We hear high-flown talk of industrial strategy, "high tech development," and the post-industrial society, but it's only empty rhetoric if it's not related to the actual lives and experiences of people. Our theories may be sophisticated, but what really matters is still how well people do their jobs, how competently managers manage, and how well workers and managers together succeed in building guality into the goods and services produced on shop floors, in offices, and on construction jobsites all over this country.

The B.C. Longshoremen's union has demonstrated the folly of ignoring such values in favour of "job creation." According to a January 6, 1984 news release from the B.C. Ministry of Industry and Small Business Development, the Longshoremen had voted to keep the controversial "destuffing" clause—which reguires that all goods moving through the Port of Vancouver, and to be delivered within eighty kilometers of the city, be unpacked and repacked into the same containers—in their contract. This, despite a joint report prepared by management and union executive recommending its elimination and noting that any decrease in employment would be more than offset by traffic captured from Seattle, Washington. (Vancouver container traffic has already suffered from shippers diverting their traffic to U.S. ports to avoid the restrictive and costly "make work" rules of Vancouver longshoremen.)

Industry Minister Don Phillips pointed out that Seattle already handles eight times as many containers per year as Vancouver, and that retention of the de-stuffing rule "virtually guarantees that Seattle's container traffic will see further increases because shippers refuse to incur unwarranted costs caused by the union's dinosaur mentality." Warned Phillips: "This clause has already cost the union more jobs than it has saved and with the possibility of the construction of a container superport in California, Vancouver may well cease to exist as a significant west coast