First of all, I want to state that I do not draw employment insurance. That being said, I have been following the recent changes to the EI system and the story of Marlene Geirsdorf of Montaque.
In my opinion, the new changes to the employment insurance system are unfair and unequal in nature.
The federal government is focusing their efforts on repeat users. The majority of these repeat users are between the ages of 40 and 65 and have been paying into the employment insurance account for over 40 or more years. They do not sit behind a desk but labour in the fields, on the water and in factories. They work long, backbreaking days in the heat, the rain and the cold. Many have major health issues that make their time working not only tiring but painful.
Just working the hours needed to draw EI in the winter is an uphill battle. Many in this group are uneducated, computer illiterate and do not qualify for the jobs listed on the job bank.
I realize that there are those who think these people should want to upgrade their education and skills, but most have families to support, bills to pay and have jobs already, even if those jobs are seasonal.
What about the Islanders that go out West to work? They usually return to the Island in the summer to spend time with their families and friends. I could be wrong but I think that they draw employment insurance while they are here. Will they be told to find work or be cut off?
We were told by Gail Shea that if there are no jobs in your area then EI is there for you. Well then, why was Ms. Geirsdorf's benefits stopped? Why are some people called to provide proof they are looking for work while others are not?
Businesses trying to hire part-time help are going to find this more difficult than ever before. If you are on EI and work part-time you will be working for $5 an hour. You will also need to continue to look for full-time work or be disqualified. Businesses will find their part-time positions filled by people forced to work there by the government. Do you think they will be reporting to work with smiles and enthusiasm?
Ms. Geirsdorf's story is getting attention all across our country. Perhaps if others were to make their stories told it would make a difference.
Whether you work seasonal or full-time or part-time, are retired or run your own business, this issue affects us all. Let's stand together and support each other as Islanders and as Canadians.