New director brings labour focus to MER program


 Dr. Alan Hall

Sept. 12, 2013

The new director of Memorial’s master of employment relations (MER) degree brings a focus in occupational health and safety and employment rights to the program.

Dr. Alan Hall is a new faculty member in the Dept. of Sociology who has also taken on the role of MER director this fall. The MER is an interdisciplinary program that is jointly offered by the faculties of arts and business administration.

“Labour, work and employment relations are my key areas of interest,” says Dr. Hall. “I enjoy a combination of teaching, research and administrative work and when asked if I was interested in the position, decided to apply.

“I’ve since learned quite a bit about the program and I am impressed not only by the quality of the program and students but also by the enormous potential that the program has for the future.”

The role of MER director alternates between the arts and business faculties every three years. Previous directors include: Dr. Travor Brown (business), Dr. Sean Cadigan (history) and Dr. Michael Withey (business).

The shared nature of the program leads to some inherent administrative challenges, including access to teaching resources, Dr. Hall says.

“My experience with interdisciplinary and inter-faculty programs is that they tend to be under-resourced and are often entirely dependent on the resources of disciplinary-based departments and participating faculties, with little in the way of direct funding support. The MER program is fortunate that many faculty and programs have stepped forward over the years to provide excellent teaching and advising support to our students, yielding an outstanding program.”

The MER program offers advanced-level study of all aspects of the employment relationship as well as insight into the history and sociology of work cultures.

Dr. Hall’s experience and research will be an asset to the program as it continues to grow.

”My central area of research is the sociology of occupational health and safety and employment rights with particular reference to the workplace politics of health and safety and employment standards. I’m also interested in labour law and in the policing of labour, seen again more in terms of the sociological origins and social influences on the applications of the law and policing practices,” he says.

“As a sociologist, I tend to see employment relations, policing and the law in political and cultural as well as in economic terms but, ultimately, my research is all about employment relations, employment law and organizational practices.”

Dr. Hall joins Memorial from the University of Windsor, where he was an associate professor of sociology and the director of the labour studies program from 1998 to 2013.

He holds a bachelor of arts and a master of arts, both in psychology, the latter of which was in applied social and organizational psychology, and he held post-doctoral awards at McMaster University and the University of Windsor. He earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Hall has several decades of experience as a senior executive member in the University of Windsor Faculty Association, holding various positions including vice-president (grievance), chief negotiator, strike co-ordinator, chair of the occupational health and safety committee, and chair of the political action committee. He spent the last three years on the provincial executive of the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations.

His labour relations experience includes two-year stints as president of the University of Toronto Teaching Assistants Union and as staff grievance and research officer at the Ontario Professional Administrative Employees Association. He has served on the boards of a number of labour-related organizations including the Windsor-Essex Labour Council, the Windsor Occupational Health Information Service and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Dr. Hall co-founded of the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, which works with vulnerable workers in precarious forms of employment, and founded the Windsor Young Workers’ Rights Program, which provides education on employment rights to high school students.

He has also co-authored a book on the policing of labour disputes and public order and has published extensively on occupational health and safety and sustainable agriculture.

Susan White-MacPherson