No industry is immune from the issue of retiring baby boomers, including industrial relations. And that’s why I ended up as an intern after six years of university, a law degree, and two years of employment at the Ontario Human Rights Commission behind me.
As it turns out, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)– the federal agency that supplies mediators to help resolve labour disputes – is facing the retirement of up to 80% of its 16 mediators in the next four years. Many companies and unions are in the same boat. So FMCS decided it needed to train some new blood and I am one of the lucky nine hired for their first ever Industrial Relations Internship Program.
I’ll be working out of the Canadian Media Guild office until August of this year, lending a hand where I can and learning everything possible from this busy union. This is the second leg of my two-year internship: I spent the first six months with an employer, Upper Lakes Group Inc., which operates bulk carrier ships on the Great Lakes.
It’s quite a transition going from shipping to the media industry, but it is certainly providing me with a wide-ranging, diverse experience. During my six-month placement at the CMG, I hope to gain an understanding of the union’s internal operations, as well as its approach to bargaining, grievances and arbitration. After I leave the CMG, I’ll do placements at both the FMCS and the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to round out the internship.
All of these different placements are one of the main reasons I decided to take on the internship. They provide the opportunity to gain an extensive amount of experience in a relatively short amount of time, as well as an understanding of the major players in the labour relations world. In the last few months, I have been immersed in labour relations and learning various facets of issues that I believe will be the focus of discussions between employers and unions in the years to come. These include alternative working arrangements, temporary employment and corporate restructuring, to name a few.
Feel free to get in touch with me at the Guild office (416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149) if you want to ask me about my experiences, or to share a story of your own. I may also see you at a Guild meeting in the coming months.
Natalie Zawadowsky is working out of the national office of the Canadian Media Guild until the end of August.