Eric Vengroff, Financial Analyst
Back in 2002, while I was a VP at CARP, what used to be called Canada’s Association for the 50+, I travelled to Washington, DC to visit AARP, the largest seniors organization in the world. They had recently begun a new initiative to highlight employers that were especially good places for older workers and retirees. Based on their evaluation criteria, we started our own “Best Employers Awards for 50+ Canadians”. CARP received quite a few applications from companies such as Home Depot, Royal Bank, and Avis, three of the winning applicants that hired or retained retired plumbers and electricians (Home Depot), made it easier for older currency traders to stay on the job (Royal Bank) or hired older drivers to shuttle rental cars (Avis).
I was reminiscing about these awards as I attended a panel discussion called “The Future of Work” at the Globe and Mail’s Canada Future Forward Summit that took place this week at their swanky new offices. The caption below the title asked, “ What will an older, smarter, more diverse workforce mean for Canada? Apropos this publication and this column, one of the panelists was Bruce Linton, co-CEO of Canopy Growth, the biggest of the Big Kahunas. I was interested to hear his take on this topic. He and his company are already renowned for reviving the fortunes of Smith Falls, Ontario, former Canadian home of chocolate giant Hersheys that closed in 2008, eliminating over 500 jobs, many of them held by older workers.
“Young or old, people like stock options”, said Mr. Linton, when asked whether or not age makes a difference with respect to the energy and engagement of older workers vis a vis their younger rivals for potential employment. That may be true and having run a start-up public company with its own stock options program which everyone benefitted from, I agree with this observation. Moreover, there are numerous analogues across Canada and the US. Cannabis growing and processing operations have changed the fortunes of many North American municipalities. Last year I wrote about a devastating fire at Loudpack Farms in Greenfield, California that put 378 newly-created cannabis workers, many of them seniors, out of work, ironically at 4:20 PM, July 24, 2018. This underscores the economic importance of even a single cannabis operation can have to an underemployed and aging retirement community.
Mr. Linton went on to tell the story of one Canopy’s first retirements, a 74-year-old, previously with Hersheys, who was already past pensionable age when he was hired. It was heartwarming to be sure, but I am left to wonder about the physical reality of the older worker at a cannabis facility. Agriculture, be it indoors or outdoors, can be strenuous and highly physical work. Working under hot grow lights, or working with various chemicals and substances, and exposure to molds and fungi could have adverse health consequences to an older worker with heart, respiratory, or deteriorating mobility. Lifting, bending, blah blah…
How many of the jobs that are listed at Canopy would be truly open to the 50+ worker? Would an older worker even be considered for a line, staff or management position? Would the workplace health and safety standards take both physical and psychic factors into account in their hiring policies? Would they affirm a duty to accommodate older workers needs for health conditions, personal absence time for their needs or to be caregivers to others? Anecdotal reports of older workers being recruited for bud trimming duty have been picked up occasionally. What if one has occasional arthritis in their hands? No answers – no time.
Are you a 50+ worker in a cannabis company? If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your experience.
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