Work

After exhaustive research, industrial organizational psychologist and data scientist, Andrew Naber came up with the figure that the average person will spend a total of 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime. With that much of our lives given over to our jobs, there is a direct correlation between much we enjoy our jobs and life outcomes and general happiness.

Image Source Pinterest Good & Co.

When we think of work, the first thing that usually comes to mind for most people is the duty we fulfill regularly for wages or salary. My home dictionary describes work as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result”. Yes, it could be those 90,000 lifetime hours we spend on the job. It also could be work outside of our regular places of employment. Such as fixing a nice dinner or working in the garden. We even “work out” as we try to achieve results of a stronger, healthier body.

Lots of extremely long days and heavy lifting during my 20 years of water well drilling. I’m 2nd from left on the front.

On the first Monday in September, a statutory public holiday is celebrated throughout Canada. It’s called Labour Day. The final long weekend in the Canadian summer. The highways will be busy as people head to the cottage or visit with family or friends. For teenagers and other students, the Labour Day weekend is the last chance to celebrate with perhaps a party or to go on a weekend trip before school re-opens for the new academic year. Once the following Tuesday rolls around, it is back to work for the parents. And back to school for the kids. Some people refer to it “back to the grind”. Labour Day wasn’t always about fun and leisure and a day off work. From the website Time and Date “The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada’s first significant demonstration for worker’s rights”. As time went on the demonstrations became victories. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Labour Day became a statutory holiday in 1896. The years following they were celebrations with the parade being the main event. Depending on the city, it could attract thousands of participants and spectators. In the 1950s, Labour Day festivities began to draw fewer and fewer participants. Nowadays, there is very little in the form of Labour Day festivities.

The Printers Strike jump stated the Labour Movement in Toronto. A Labour Day parade on Yonge Street, c 1900 (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1568, Item 314). As posted in The Canadian Encyclopedia.

So when and where did this concept of work all originate? We learn in the Bible that God came up with the idea. Genesis 1;1 read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. After six days of creating a magnificent earth and all the stars and galaxies, he was finished. Genesis 1:31 reads, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. And Genesis 2:2 reads, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing”. God created Adam and had him placed in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it. That would have been an incredible place of employment. Adam’s “Employee Handbook” would have been very thin. There was only one simple command. Don’t eat the forbidden fruit. When Adam broke that one rule, he was evicted from the Garden of Eden. With sin and the fall of man, work over the centuries hasn’t been easy. It’s difficult and challenging to work and be able to earn enough to provide for our families.

Throughout the Bible there are many types of occupations that mankind has worked at. Bible Gateway has added up a total of 5433 times types of work that are mentioned. Occupations such as shepherd (Luke 2:8) are mentioned in numerous verses. Other occupations such as “embroiderer” (Exodus 38:23) are not mentioned nearly as much. In the Bible you will also find builders, weavers, stonemasons, carpenters, woodworkers, musicians, tanners, linen workers, washermen, blacksmiths, merchants, tentmakers, soldiers, priests, watchmen, farmers, fishermen, doctors, lawyers. And even tax collectors. Occupations not only provide a means of earning a living, they also are vital to keep society functioning smoothly. For example, where would we be without our farmers and doctors?

One of the occupations in the Bible was the shepherd. Image Source Seeds Family Worship.

As important as work is to earn a living and keep society functioning smoothly, we need rest for our physical and mental restoration and well being. After God created this magnificent earth, stars and galaxies, he rested. Genesis 2:2-3 reads, “By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done”.

We ourselves also need to take time to rest from our work. Image Source Worthy Devotions.

In Canada we have come a long way in regards to working conditions and labour laws. We have regulated work weeks, minimum wages and Ministry of Labour boards that crack down on companies with safety violations. And though we still have a ways to go, we have made strides in equality for all workers. We have Employment Insurance, so that if we do lose our jobs, there is a form of a safety net. It is not perfect, but we do have lots to celebrate this Labour Day.

From Sept. 2020 Canadian Occupational Safety magazine titled, “Ontario Hiring Largest Number of Labour Inspectors in Its’ History“.

In 1978 I was working with a man who was electrocuted and killed on the job. He was a 41 year old father. This event has haunted me throughout my entire life. It was a defective piece of equipment and it could have been me who was electrocuted. The most difficult thing was that the mans’ death could easily have been prevented. Despite all the labour improvements we now have, there are still hundreds of people in Canada who lose their lives while working on the job each year. A January 2019 CBC article titled Job-Related Deaths in Canada Dramatically Underreported mentions that in 2018 there were 904 workers’ compensation board claims across the country which involved fatalities. About one-third of those cases involved acute accidents, with the rest due to longer-term illnesses from occupational exposure. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Image from 2021 Global News article titled “Saskatoon Company fined $91,000 in Workplace Fatality“.

In our car-centric culture, most people need a car to get to work. And the carnage on the roads these days is horrendous. We live in a culture of presenteeism, where people are expected to be at work, regardless of whether they’re ill or whether the weather conditions are such that they shouldn’t be driving at that particular time. Of the 1922 road traffic fatalities in Canada in 2018, an estimated 460 people were killed commuting to or from work. These are not counted as job related deaths. It also does not take in account people who are killed by commuters travelling to or from work. At my school crosswalk, I daily see the high speed and aggression that drivers are travelling through my school crosswalk in a community safety zone. And it frightens me. There is a deep fear, that despite all the precautions I take as crossing guard, something tragic is going to happen under my watch some day. Drivers are in such a hurry.

Such a busy highway at my school crosswalk.

Workmen’s Compensation job related claims also does not take in account job related suicide. The Mental Health Commission of Canada published a study that found Canadian employees reported workplace stress as the primary cause of their mental-health concerns. Between 10 and 17 per cent of annual suicides in Canada could be classified as work-related, representing a range of 400 to 800 fatalities each year.

Suicides are one of the biggest single contributors to the annual work-related fatalities toll. But not reportable as a work-related death. Image Source Hazards Campaign.

But there is more. What the statistics don’t account for is the staggering work related cancer and disease numbers. These can add up to thousands of deaths a year more than reported. It is those workers who die from Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer caused from exposure to asbestos. Or the wife who handles her husbands asbestos dust filled clothes and puts them in the wash each week. From the website Asbestos.com, the “average latency period of Mesothelioma can take between 20 and 60 years to develop after asbestos exposure. It is very rare to have a mesothelioma latency period of less than 15 years. The majority of adults with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and it took decades for their cancer to develop.”

Image Source: Mesothelioma.

Sadly asbestos is only one of possibly hundreds of hazardous substances workers have been exposed to in industrial settings in the last 50+ years. Between 1998 and 2008 I worked in a heavy truck axle plant and in any given time there would be dozens of welders going at the same time. Some days the smog would be so thick you could barely see the ceiling. On top of my regular work duties, I was a worker safety rep. My co-workers elected me for this role, and for my last eight years I was worker rep serving on the Joint Health and Safety Committee. I advocated for better ventilation, and it did become much improved by 2008 over when I started in 1998. The ventilation in 1998 would have been much better when the factory opened in 1977. What is happening now is that many of my coworkers, particularly those who have worked at the factory for 20 years or more are dying of cancer in alarming numbers. Most of these workers are my age, or slightly older in their 60’s. It is happening way too frequently to be a coincidence. You add up the hundreds of factories across Canada in similar situations and the job related deaths are staggering.

A lot of toxic smoke is generated while welding. The newer robotic welders available fortunately have improved ventilation. Image Source Allied Electronics and Automation.

Safety and environmental standards have improved dramatically in the 45 years I have been in the workforce here in Ontario, Canada. However, particularly in the most recent 25 years, to escape tougher regulations and cheaper labour, major corporations have been outsourcing much of their production to developing nations. Where maximum profits are everything, these developing nations offer low-cost labour. Plus it is a way to escape the tougher government environmental and safety regulations found in Canada. And in some cases escaping unionization. Conditions the workers encounter in these countries often are far worse than what I have ever had to encounter. At the same time, corporations continue to gain power. They merge, consolidate, restructure and metamorphose into even larger and more complex units of resource extraction, production, distribution and marketing. To the point where many of them have become economically more powerful than many entire countries. An older book published in 2000 (garage sale purchase) I have been reading called “Culture Jam” mentions that “in 1997, 51 of the world’s 100 top economies were corporations, not countries. The top 500 corporations controlled 42% of the world’s wealth.” It got me really curious to learn what are the more recent statistics on this. Not surprising the corporations became even more rich and powerful in those following 20 years. In 2017, the 71 greatest economies in the world are corporations, and only 29 are countries. The full list can be found on this webpage. There is also a short video at the end of this article on how much those top corporations are worth. What is most alarming is that as corporate profits and CEO salaries and bonuses are exploding, workers and communities are getting a shrinking piece of the growing pie. Traditionally trade agreements with overseas nations have always protected investors over the workers in the supply chain themselves.

Book I’ve been reading. Image Source Good Reads

God is the one who came up with the idea of work. In the perfect world before sin entered it, work would have been so idyllic. With sin and the fall of man, we live and work in a very broken world. The Bible speaks of a reckoning for rich oppressors, which is written out in James 5:1-6. When you look at the full picture, remember: massive corporations exist because of us. It is our business, our money, which allows them to not only survive. But to thrive. It is our massive consumer buying habits that is fueling their record profits. We live in a throw away society, and our planet all over is being pillaged and raped of it’s resources. Our planet is heating up at an alarming rate. Our world leaders feeble attempts from preventing the earth’s thermostat from climbing even higher is just not enough. They don’t want to “hurt the economy”. As consumers, we make decisions on our purchases daily. Do we really need that latest phone? Or that new SUV? Or a bank loan to buy the SUV? Our current economic system built around big corporate cannot tolerate any reduction in consumption. We simply cannot deal with that idea. That is our rigidity. This rigidity is causing the breakdown of our climate before our eyes. The huge price being paid will affect our future generations to come. Christian Stewardship regards the obligation of Christians in managing and utilizing intelligently the gifts that God has given. It could be financial gifts. It could be spiritual gifts. And it could be caring for this beautiful earth God has given us so it will sustain itself. Not only now. But for generations to come. God bless.

Image Source Bible Pic.

A Labour Day Prayer: from Presbyterian Church of Canada Worship Resources

God of all times and all people,
on this Labour Day Weekend,
we thank you for all the skill and talent with which you bless your people.
Thank you for what we have accomplished through the work we do,
and for what each one of us contributes to the wellbeing of our community.
Inspire us to work together on the challenges we face
and surprise us with the solutions to problems that once seemed overwhelming.

Today we pray for all those who labour in difficult situations:
for children who work in terrible conditions and are paid very little.;
for migrant workers who must labour far away from their families;
and for all those who are underpaid or unjustly treated in their workplace.

We pray for those who cannot labour:
for those who are unemployed or underemployed;
for those who have become injured on the job or too sick to keep working;
for those who are denied the opportunity to earn a living because of war or discrimination.

We pray for those who labour in our community.
for those who must work today and tomorrow instead of enjoying this long weekend;
for those who must work several jobs in order to care for their families;
for those who work at jobs we wouldn’t to do ourselves because they are messy or unpleasant.

And on this Labour Day, O God, we offer gratitude for laws that protect children,
for health and safety practices that prevent tragedies in the workplace,
and for generations before us who advocated for vulnerable employees,
fair wages and equal opportunities.
Thank you for the work that goes on behind the scenes,
delivering things we enjoy and services we rely on.
Help us to look beyond these things
to picture the faces of those whose work provides for all our needs.
Through their faces, let us see your face, Creator and Sustainer of all that is.
We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen

From the YouTube channel “World Data“, the 80 most valuable companies in the world in 2022

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