The more I hear about the changes that are coming to the Canadian EI system, the more frustrated I get. And it’s not even the changes themselves that are making me the most angry (though there’s definitely some rage there); it’s the comments I keep hearing from people who support the changes, or think the changes should be even harsher. The most common comment I’ve heard is that Atlantic Canadians (and our seasonal workers in particular) are lazy bums sponging off the system several months a year, and that we should be forced to suck it up and either get a job flipping burgers or move out West for work.
Funny how sure of themselves are these people who have stable jobs and don’t have to deal with being regularly unemployed themselves. They’re so angry about people “abusing” the system that they pay for (uh, hello, the same people “abusing” the system pay EI premiums too, you know) that they don’t stop to think for a moment about some of the comments they’re making.
A few points, if you will:
– Yes, our seasonal workers (fishermen, tourism workers, agriculturists, etc) “sponge” off the system every year. That’s because their jobs, the jobs they’ve worked all their lives and are trained for, don’t enable them to work 12 months out of the year. I’ve heard so many comments about how those people should “look for other work then, if their jobs are so unsteady”. And that is one of the most ridiculously stupid things I’ve ever heard. If all the fishermen suddenly packed up and said, “You know what? We should go find a job that’s available all year through” who the hell would catch your fish?! Like it or not, seasonal work is required work. Those seasonal workers catch your fish, harvest your crops, cut your lumber, and a host of other things that need doing. Cut them out of the equation and you create a massive deficit in freakin’ society.
– “Okay, so don’t make them find new jobs, but force them to take other jobs during the off months!” Do you really think that’s so easy? First of all, most of these seasonal workers are only trained in the job they do. In order to find a secondary job that pays them at least closed to what they make normally, they would need to be trained in something. Who is going to pay to train them? Do you remember what college costs? Because it’s gone up. A lot. The EI changes that are coming will put no money into helping retrain the unemployed. So where is that money going to come from? Believe it or not, not everyone can afford to just say, “Hey, I think I’ll go back to college so I can work two jobs a year.”
– “Okay, screw a career, just make them work at McDonald’s in the off months!” Oh, you sad, sorry little person. There are currently tens of thousands of seasonal workers in Nova Scotia. Do you honestly believe that there are tens of thousands of unskilled jobs just sitting around waiting to be filled? Particularly in Nova Scotia? Because if you do, I’ll pray for your sanity if you ever lose your job. It hasn’t been very long since I was a college student looking for part-time work to help pay my tuition, so I know what it’s like. It’s not uncommon to hand out a hundred resumes before getting one interview (and that’s in the cities, not the super-rural areas many of us live in). And I’m going to explain something to you right now: minimum wage employers like fast food joints and department stores don’t want to hire you if they know you’re going to be leaving for another job in a few months. Why would McDonald’s want to hire a fisherman and spend a bunch of money training him, knowing that he’s going to leave to go back to fishing in a few short months? Minimum wage employers don’t want to deal with that nonsense anymore than any other employer would. Turnover at those places is bad enough without hiring people that they know for sure aren’t sticking around for very long. And as previously mentioned, even if some seasonal workers do manage to pick up these types of jobs, there aren’t enough available for everyone. To think that there are is complete and utter folly. If there were that many minimum wage jobs just sitting around, students wouldn’t have such a hard time finding part-time and summer jobs.
The entire thing, in my opinion (and many other people’s opinions) smacks of trying to force as many people out west as possible. If seasonal workers (and others who claim EI regularly for other reasons) are forced to take jobs outside their pay grade (and yes, 70% of what you’re used to is significantly reduced pay when you’re fixed into things like mortgages and vehicle loans), then they’re going to start looking at greener pastures, which seems to be exactly what the feds want. The West will continue to grow and prosper, while the East steadily collapses. The more people who head out to the oil sands for better-paying work, the less money that will be spent in Nova Scotia, the higher our taxes will rise, and so on and so forth. And to all you people who support the changes, you who have steady, well-paying jobs and never have to rely on EI yourselves…you can be damn sure that as the Nova Scotia economy rapidly declines, your jobs will end up in jeopardy as well.
Will you be ready and willing to take a minimum wage job or uproot your entire life to move out West?