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Canadian employers, facing labor shortage, accommodate the unvaccinated

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Canada’s tight labor market is forcing many companies to offer regular COVID-19 testing over vaccine mandates, while others are reversing previously announced inoculation requirements even as Omicron variant cases rise.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government adopted one of the strictest inoculation policies in the world for civil servants and has already put more than 1,000 workers on unpaid leave, with thousands more at risk.

Airlines, police forces, school boards and even Canada’s Big Five banks https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-major-banks-require-employees-entering-premises-be-vaccinated-2021-08-20 have also pledged strict mandatory vaccine policies. But following through has proven less straightforward, especially as employers grapple with staffing shortages and workers demand exemptions.

Job vacancies in Canada have doubled so far this year, official data shows, and vaccine mandates can make filling those jobs harder, potentially putting upward pressure on wages. That could fuel inflation https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-annual-inflation-rate-hits-47-oct-highest-since-feb-2003-2021-11-17, already running at a near two-decade high.

“It’s already difficult to find staff, let alone putting in a vaccine mandate. You’d cut out potentially another 20%” of potential workers, said Dan Kelly, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

There are pitfalls to employing the unvaccinated. Companies run a higher risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and many vaccinated employees are uncomfortable working with those who have not had the jab, said industry groups and marketing experts.

At Luda Foods, a Montreal-based soup and sauce maker, president Robert Eiser said he has 14 open jobs, no vaccine mandate and no plans to restrict new hires to the vaccinated.

“I don’t know that I want to reduce the (labor) pool, which is already quite low,” said Eiser. “We need to attract people to meet the demand. If we don’t, our competitors will.”

Data released on Friday underpinned Canada’s tight labor market, with a hefty 153,700 jobs https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/canada-posts-hefty-job-gains-outlook-clouded-by-omicron-variant-2021-12-03 added in November. It also showed a growing mismatch between available workers and unfilled jobs. And job postings are far above pre-pandemic levels. (Graphic: Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level Canada job postings surge above pre-pandemic level, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA2/klvyknzklvg/chart.png)

WALKING BACK

The province of Quebec backtracked on a vaccine mandates for healthcare workers last month, saying they could not afford to lose thousands of unvaccinated staff. Ontario, which was also eyeing a mandate, said it would not go ahead.

Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal have both softened their vaccine policy to allow regular testing for workers who missed their Oct. 31 inoculation deadline.

In Canada, 86% of adults are fully inoculated, though that drops under 80% among 18-40 year olds. At least 15 cases of the new Omicron https://www.reuters.com/markets/rates-bonds/canada-has-reported-total-11-cases-omicron-variant-health-official-2021-12-03 variant in Canada have been reported in the past week.

John Cappelli, vice president of onsite managed services in Canada for global recruitment firm Adecco, said half of his clients are mandating vaccines with the other half allowing regular testing for the unvaccinated.

But he expects the Omicron variant will prompt more workplaces to get strict on vaccination, even as they grapple with the tightest job market he’s seen in his 25-year career.

“We are now starting to see our first workplace (COVID-19) cases in five months,” he said.

The number of Canadian job postings on search website Indeed mentioning vaccine requirements has quadrupled since August. (Graphic: Canada job postings and vaccine mandates, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/CANADA3/byvrjqrlmve/chart.png)

In the hard-hit manufacturing sector, where 77% of firms say their top concern is attracting and retaining workers, vaccine mandates are more rare.

Dennis Darby, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said most of Canada’s factories have operated safely throughout the pandemic. While CME encourages vaccination, “some companies are still using rapid testing if somebody doesn’t want to get vaccinated,” he added.

But companies risk a hit to their reputation if they are overt in efforts to tap into the unvaccinated as a labor pool, said Wojtek Dabrowski, managing partner at Provident Communications.

“If you go out and say, ‘We are intentionally seeking to hire unvaccinated people,’ many customers are equating that with you being anti-science and anti-safety,” said Dabrowski.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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Canada’s First Quantum agrees to higher payments at Panama copper mine

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The Panamanian unit of Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals has agreed with Panama’s government to increase royalty payments at its flagship copper mine, the company and the government said on Monday.

Minera Panama, which is majority owned by First Quantum Minerals, has agreed to pay $375 million a year to state coffers from the Cobre Panama mine, which it says is one of world’s largest copper producers.

“We accept the proposal of the national Government, while requesting that the necessary protections be provided in order to safeguard the continuity of the operation,” Minera Panama said in a statement.

The company did not immediately respond to a question about the size of the increase in royalty payments

Panama‘s government said President Laurentino Cortizo would give details of the agreement on Tuesday.

The company began negotiating a new contract with officials in September, after Cortizo promised to seek a fairer deal with better public benefits.

Toronto-based First Quantum began commercial operations at Cobre Panama, about 120 km (75 miles) west of Panama City, in 2019.

The mine contributes 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to government figures, and at full capacity can produce more than 300,000 tonnes of copper per year.

 

(Reporting by Elida Moreno, writing by Daina Beth Solomon, editing by Richard Pullin)

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U.N. chief urges business to help poor nations in ‘hour of need’

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to business leaders on Monday to support developing countries “in their hour of need” with access to COVID-19 vaccines, help to combat the climate crisis and reform of the global financial system.

Speaking virtually to the World Economic Forum, Guterres said: “Across all three of these areas, we need the support, the ideas, the financing and the voice of the global business community.”

He said there has been a “global inability to support developing countries in their hour of need” and warned that without immediate action inequalities and poverty would deepen, fueling more social unrest and more violence.

“We cannot afford this kind of instability,” said Guterres, who began a second five-year term as U.N. chief on Jan. 1.

He has long been pushing for more global action to address COVID-19 vaccine inequity and climate change and for reform of the global financial system.

“We need a global financial system that is fit-for-purpose. This means urgent debt restructuring and reforms of the long-term debt architecture,” Guterres said.

The World Health Organization last year set targets for 40% of people in all countries to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of this year.

“We are nowhere near these targets. Vaccination rates in high-income countries are — shamefully — seven times higher than in African countries. We need vaccine equity, now,” Guterres said.

He also warned of a lopsided recovery from the pandemic with low-income countries at a huge disadvantage.

“They’re experiencing their slowest growth in a generation,” Guterres said. “The burdens of record inflation, shrinking fiscal space, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices are hitting every corner of the world and blocking recovery — especially in low- and some middle-income countries.”

 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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'I'm out of gas:' Leadership burnout on the rise as pandemic takes mental health toll – CTV News

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Workers turn to them for support, clients rely on them for answers, companies lean on them in times of crisis.

Yet as the pandemic stretches inexorably on, experts say the never-ending demands on business leaders are pushing some to the brink of burnout.

Stress, uncertainty and long hours are causing malaise among many managers. It’s a condition that — if left unchecked long enough — can manifest as exhaustion, disengagement, depression and burnout, they say.

“Leaders are under tremendous strain,” says Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks.

“When the pandemic first started, we saw the adrenalin kick in, decisions were made fast and work got done,” she says. “But it’s been relentless. Leaders are exhausted.”

It’s not just people in charge hitting a wall 22 months, five waves and multiple variants into the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research has found an extreme level of exhaustion among many Canadian workers from the bottom to the top. Many say they’re more stressed now than during initial lockdowns.

Essential front-line workers from nurses to grocery store clerks have faced innumerable risks of infection. Others face precarious employment without sick days or benefits. Some have lost their jobs altogether and struggle to pay rent and buy food.

In comparison to these hardships, some might be quick to dismiss the challenges of leaders.

Yet many have reported an increase in exhaustion and mental health concerns since the start of the pandemic.

Supervisors, low-level managers, small business owners and senior executives are grappling with increasing demands and surging work volumes.

Many are putting in extra hours to keep things running while also providing support and encouragement to workers.

“Business leaders are supposed to be cheerleaders,” says Mike Johnston, president and CEO of Halifax software company Redspace.

“But we’ve been trying to hustle and pivot and get through this for so long now. I’m out of gas.”

For some managers, the inability to offer more certainty and support to workers is what keeps them up at night.

“When you’re the leader of a group of people you want to have all the answers,” says Barry Taylor, director of operations for The Ballroom, a large entertainment venue in downtown Toronto.

“But you don’t and you just feel helpless and burnt out.”

Experts say late-stage pandemic fatigue is taking a toll on many managers, with some veering towards burnout.

The symptoms can include emotional exhaustion, detachment, loss of motivation and reduced efficiency — all of which can have a ripple effect throughout an entire workplace, they say.

“It’s exhausted leaders leading exhausted teams,” says Jennifer Moss, a Waterloo, Ont.-based workplace consultant and author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It.

“Managers are trying to be stoic and demonstrate strength and certainty for their employees when many don’t feel that themselves.”

Pandemic burnout isn’t unique to leaders, but she says there are particular stressors facing those in charge.

“It can be more isolating at the top,” Moss says. “Senior leaders and managers can sometimes feel very alone.”

There’s also a perception that because people in management positions “earn the big bucks” they should be prepared to cope with the additional responsibility and stress, she says.

“We sometimes forget there’s a human behind that role and regardless of how much they’re being paid, how much they earn, it doesn’t fix the grief and the pain and the stress that they’re dealing with,” Moss says.

The perception that managers should demonstrate unwavering leadership and steadfast support of their workers can increase fears of seeking help, experts say.

“There’s a definite stigma,” says Chantal Hervieux, associate professor of strategy at Saint Mary’s University’s Sobey School of Business and director of the school’s MBA program and Centre for Leadership Excellence.

“There’s less acceptance for leaders to talk about mental health issues.”

Leaders are expected to be in control, have the answers and be supportive of their team members, she says.

Despite the near constant uncertainty and upheaval of the pandemic, those expectations have remained the same — or increased, Hervieux says.

“Canadian business leaders are working hard to keep things going but some are suffering,” she says. “They’re paying a mental health price and we need to talk about it.”

The challenge of trying to lead during the pandemic is backed up by research.

A survey by LifeWorks and Deloitte Canada released last summer found 82 per cent of senior leaders reported feeling exhausted.

The poll found the top two stressors were an increase in work volume compared to pre-pandemic levels, and the desire to provide adequate support for the well-being of staff.

More than half of those polled said they were considering leaving their roles.

“I’ve been chatting with other CEOs and there seems to be a shift,” Johnston with Redspace says. “There’s a number of founders looking to get out, to exit. The fun of the chase isn’t balanced against the stress of it.”

Still, despite some of the unique pressures facing leaders, burnout appears to be impacting all workers.

A new Bromwich+Smith poll conducted by Angus Reid found more than 70 per cent of people surveyed are worried about their physical and mental health, including sleep issues, fear of COVID-19 and burnout.

Another study by Canada Life found a high level of burnout among Canadian workers. The survey conducted by Mental Health Research Canada found more than a third of all working Canadians are feeling burned out.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.

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