MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (October, 2021)

Pleased to join the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel on a bright Fall morning, alongside Mark Warner and John Northcott.  With lots to discuss on this busy news week, we chatted about the global supply chain backlog, the US opening its land border to vaccinated Canadians, and worker concerns at Instacart, among other companies.  Here is a clip from our discussion and some thoughts.

Although the global supply chain backlog received a lot of media attention this week, it represents a story that has been in the background for a number of months (if you had asked a random person on the street what they think about the supply chain problem, they probably would have kept walking).  This situation impacts companies and consumers alike, in that delays in receiving goods in need creates additional problems, as well as price increases.  Given the magnitude of the problem, it is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, putting some items out of reach for a while.  Resolution will require time and collaboration from various parties, some of whom are likely not used to thinking creatively to solve problems.  This story is a reminder that implementation is difficult and various pieces are involved in the supply chain, including sea and land vessels, a range of workers, and policies and procedures to guide task completion.  Look for initiatives to improve operational efficiency going forward and consumers should be prepared to be flexible in expectations and to pay more for goods.

While Canada opened its land border to vaccinated US travelers a couple of months ago, the US will be reciprocating in early November.  It is uncertain what the initial level of uptake will be, however, it is fair to say that the pandemic has left a lot of people wishing for a return to some sense of normalcy.  As Canadians tend to favour the southern US states, where vaccination levels are currently relatively low, it will be important to ensure that screening requirements are consistently enforced upon return to protect against setbacks in the Canadian economy.  Travelers should be prepared to face additional costs and delays, something that is part of traveling (those who are not willing to follow guidelines or incur costs have the option to stay home).  One thing that we should be able to agree upon is the need to avoid a significant number of travel related cases of COVID19.

And, finally, Instacart’ s shoppers have indicated that they will take strike action against pay and working condition issues, shining a light on some of the challenges that are incurred by front line workers generally.  This issue has roots well in advance of the pandemic, as the gap between pay levels at senior and front line levels has become increasingly significant.  In a world of millionaire and billionaire CEO’s, contrasted with front line workers who have to take on various jobs, often without benefits or security, just to meet basic living requirements, many have simply lost patience with this issue.  Further, wage increases over the years have not kept pace with the rising cost of living or income appreciation at more senior ranks generally, causing additional frustration.

COVID19 has only made this situation more difficult, and as workers are integral to the ability of most companies to generate wealth, there needs to be some sort of reckoning on this issue.  Expect that many are tired of billionaires flaunting their wealth, in what can be viewed as a lack of attention and fairness being paid to wage levels in the lower ranks, and as job vacancies increase and people continue to rethink how they earn a living (workers have recognized that they do, indeed, hold some power).  It will be interesting to watch as this situation continues to unfold.

Thank you for watching and enjoy the Fall season.  See you again next time on the Weekend Business Panel!


Jenifer Bartman
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