News Briefs (July 15, 2002)


Toronto — You can talk yourself blue in the face about pensions and retirements but staff aren’t listening. That’s one take on a survey of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by Environics for MasterCard Canada. Or it may be that despite financial advice, living expenses leave little money for the future. Only three pre cent of those surveyed felt retirement and investments were the best use of their money, and even when asked what they’d do with $1 million, only five per cent said some of it would go towards retirement.


Edmonton — Alberta-based Athabasca University, a Canadian leader in online education, has joined with three similar schools in Hong Kong, Australia and the United Kingdom to create the World Alliance on Distance Education. Together they will deliver a post-MBA international business program. The intensive, year-long program will be offered to working managers and professionals.


London, Ont. — E-mail is failing as a productivity tool, a study out of the University of Western Ontario reports. Research by professor Christina Cavanagh shows a steady rise in the number of e-mails and time spent on them, with most being co-worker-generated rather than from clients. Employees spend more and more time on e-mails and less on productive endeavours, said Cavanagh. Two of the biggest time-wasting culprits: the corresponding copy (cc) and reply to all buttons. Use of these features is out of control, resulting in low-value messages.


Toronto — In a case that leads HR professionals to wonder if employees will ever get the message about appropriate Internet use, Toronto’s Catholic Children’s Aid Society has fired and suspended dozens of staff over pornographic e-mails. “Staff are appalled and completely puzzled that people would do this in a professional workplace, especially in an organization like this one,” said Mary McConville, executive director of the agency. Six employees were terminated, 26 suspended without pay and six received letters of warning for distributing hard-core pornography and offensive jokes.


Charlottetown — Prince Edward Island is launching a workplace safety program that will provide information about family and workplace violence and where victims can go for help. Resource materials will be distributed to all workplaces, along with posters and stickers for washrooms.


Calgary — The average age of Alberta’s 29,000 oil industry engineers, geologists and geophysicists is 47 and retirement is looming for many, but there are only 4,300 trainees in the pipeline. Dale Miller, past-president of the workers’ professional association, said layoffs in the 1980s and subsequent ups and downs have tarnished the sector’s image. Labour shortages of all kinds are already causing development projects to run over budget. Last month, Syneco CEO Michael Supple suggested Alberta’s oil sands companies co-ordinate building projects so they can each take turns drawing from the limited labour pool. Chefs at one oil and gas camp are reportedly making $130,000 a year, double the normal rate.


Montreal — Montreal police disconnected 11 phone lines at offices of Local 2815 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees because union members on strike against cable firm Videotron were allegedly using the lines to disrupt the company’s customer service department. Callers would dial and hang up, making the line unusable for 60 to 90 seconds. The company noticed the tactic when an extra 6,000 calls a day started coming in.

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