Ageism and Buyouts

A recent Globe and Mail article cites Harvey Weingarten, CEO of HEQCO (a research agency funded by the Ontario government), as saying “As the professoriate ages, it has … a constraining influence on … renewal.”

In contrast, the Human Rights Office at Queen’s, a U-15 University, publishes on its website examples of what age harassment might look like at Queen’s.

The Globe article attributes an aging workforce to the abolition of mandatory retirement several years ago. What it doesn’t say is that the retirement landscape has completely changed with the erosion of secure pension benefits. Whereas retirees of a previous generation could look forward to a guaranteed lifetime benefit, today’s retirees receive a fixed pot of money to manage in a volatile market.

Although the Charter prima facie disallows age discrimination, until relatively recently mandatory retirement was considered an acceptable practice across Canada. Not long after abolition, newer modern narratives began to characterize it as age discrimination.

Other changes are on the way. It is clear from the above-mentioned article that ‘voluntary’ ‘buyouts’ combined with covert social pressure are replacing mandatory retirement in many jurisdictions as a ‘legal’ means for dumping older employees. Closer to home, we have lately become aware of many examples of dumping of older workers under the aegis of “restructuring” where collective agreements do not offer strong job security benefits. Word has it that some institutions have even reinstituted “perp walks” for such employees.

USFA is closely following developments in this area.