Saturday, May 26, 2012

Calvinist Hypocrisy

Nothing betrays the Calvinist-Social Credit roots of the present government more than this week's  Employment Insurance "reforms." Tom Walkom writes:

Behind this week’s changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance system lie bone-headed ideology and contempt.

The bone-headed ideology stems from the Conservative government’s primitive, Economics 101 view of the world.

The contempt is that of comfortable, well-heeled politicians who, deep down, assume that those unfortunate enough to have lost their jobs lack moral fibre.

Behind the changes is the fundamentalist faith that wealth and social position are a sign that one is a member of  the "elect." And, although most workers fund EI, the elect determine who receives benefits. Thus, only about 40% of Canadians can collect employment insurance. And this week it got much tougher for the 40%. The reason, Walkom writes, is because:

The rules as they stand are biased against those who for no fault of their own must take part-time jobs to make ends meet, as well as contract workers who are technically deemed self-employed.

Added to this is the fact that the EI fund has been used as a cash cow by successive governments — either to pay off debt (as Jean Chrétien’s Liberals did) or to fund other programs.

Thus EI now pays for maternity, parental and compassionate leaves. It funds training programs and subsidizes self-employed fishermen.

There is nothing wrong with supporting maternity leaves or retraining. But EI was established to see workers through layoffs. And, while more people are being laid off for longer periods, fewer of them can access EI. The new rules mean even fewer Canadians will be eligible to receive EI. More than that, they reinforce one of the Harper government's prime objectives -- to drive down wages:

Thus the new 70 per cent rule: If you lose your job, you must be willing to take a wage cut of up to 30 per cent to qualify for EI benefits. Lose that job and you’re liable to another 30 per cent wage cut. And on. And on.

The Harperites have confused being elected with being members of the elect. They assume that their position makes them evangelists, whose mission is to see that the less fortunate pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  Pure Calvinist hypocrisy.


Beijing York said...

I truly hope people who work for a wage, be it seasonal or full-time, recognize how denigrating this latest Harper move is and rally hard against these changes.

The Harper Regime is also introducing changes to the appeal process and by all accounts, they are for the worse. If he gets away with this, he will go after mat/pat leave and pay equity next.

Owen Gray said...

Andrew Coyne writes today that Harper is fully focused on the economy, Bejing. What he doesn't say is that Harper is fully focused on enshrining trickle down economics as the Canadian way.

Wherever it has been applied, trickle down has been disastrous. So, yes, if he's allowed to get away with this, the ship of state will run aground.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I was unemployed for three years when my new worker wanted to review my case. She said, 'how old are you? 60, I replyed. she rolled her eyes and raised her arms and said, "YOU ARE UNEMPLOYABLE , have you ever tried to qualify for a disability pension?. It WAS a shock to hear that, when I have two university degrees and qualificationS in two trades. She was right, or course, who is going to hire you when you dont fit in the benefit package. At that age, I was not physically up to working full time at my trades. NoT speaking French I have only seldom qualified for a social service position, which I might otherwise be qualified. Years ago, when I was a young single father and unemployed I asked if they would send me no language school so I could have a better chance of a job more in line with my education.(I had already studied French formally for 8 years)
They said, No, but they would pay to train me as a welder, if I was willing to move out of the area.
That was not possible, I had a farm, a child and a life where I was, moving was not a possiblily.
I said, point me to the welfare office.! The Harper's EI program will send more people to the welfare office shifting the cost from the Employment Insurance, which is funded by workers, to the Province's welfare which is funded by taxes.

The Consevative plan is ideological. They do not know anything about the complexity of the situations that unemployed people find themselves in. I would suggest, they do not care as long as they sound to the uninformed that they are good money managers out to get the abusers of the system. They would do better to chase the wealthy tax evaders rather than punish the unemployed who I suspect do not have a high percentage of "cheaters".

Owen Gray said...

Your experience underscores exactly what is wrong with the Harper government's EI reforms, Phillip. You -- with two degrees and two tickets -- were not unemployed because you lacked "moral fibre."

I'm willing to bet that no member of the Harper government has ever been on EI. If they had ever been where you have been, they could not support such arrogant stupidity.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I have many tales of EI which I still prefer to call Unemployment Insurance which emphasis that it is a benefit to the unemployed while EI tends to focus our attention of the payment the employer and employed must pay out.

One thing that is not mentioned on this subject is that the EI in rural areas is a kind of subsidy for industries that are seasonal. such as forestry and fishing. (mining at times). While these industries lay off their workers for part of the year, the EI pays enought for the workers to stick around to be available when the industry needs them. If this were not the case such industries would have to hire less skilled workers or workers from farther away (tempting them with higher wages in order for them to move.) to replace workers each year.

I am familiar with forestry. Every year the forestry industries shut down for two months May to June because the gravel roads and forest floor would be too wet for heavy machinery, which would break it up. Also there are times when weather might also shut down the industry: dangerously cold in Winter, too hot and dry and forest fires. Occasionally, mills burn down and the forest workers may have time off. All in all a forestry worker might have to claim EI for 2 to 3 months every year.

Our conservative Government which is always seeking private business solutions should make it hard for industries to lay off seasonal workers instead of depending on welfare and EI to support their workers. Perhaps, industries which are seasonal could continue to pay their workers at 70% of their wages. How's that for a private industry solution.

Several years ago the forest industries decided they did not want to carry the expense of equipment and benefits for wages. A lot of it set up workers as "independent contactors" owning their own equipment and paying their own benefits. One problem I experienced was that it was almost impossible to get coverage for my Workman Compensation. The employer insisted that I was independent and they were not responsibe while the WCB insisted they were responsible for every worker on their job site including so called "contract workers". I could never get this knot untied so I paid WCB for my cutter and had to carry private insurance for myself.
This, of course, is industry shifting the risk and cost to the worker. I think similarly they benefit with EI being a partial deflection of risk and responsility to the worker and government. Rather than focusing on the vulnerable unemployed workers the government might review how industries avoid their responsility for their employees.

Owen Gray said...

More and more, Philip, employers are going the private contractor route. It cuts their benefit costs and makes employees -- particularly seasonal employees -- more vulnerable to the weather and the climate.

We have forgotten that, in a country like Canada, the best way to survive the Canadian climate is to support each other. Instead, it is now every man and woman for him or herself.