EI changes have plant workers ‘scared’

James McLeod
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Minister says details still being worked out

Plant worker Irene Ploughman (left) of Bay Bulls, greeted federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley upon her arrival at the Barry Group owned fish plant in Witless Bay Wednesday morning. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley clearly wasn’t expecting a warm reception Wednesday when she went to visit the crab plant in Witless Bay.

Walking into the plant, Finley was confronted by Irene Ploughman who has been working

there for decades. She said she’s “scared” about Ottawa’s plans to retool the employment insurance system.

“Don’t say that unless you know all the details,” Finley said, before going into the plant for a tour.

During her visit to the Witless Bay plant, Finley was accompanied by a pair of RCMP officers, and her communications person shut down a media availability after less than five minutes.

Last month Finley rolled out sweeping changes to the EI system. Frequent users will be forced to take work at 70 per cent of what they were previously making, and they can be required to take work in a different field.

On Wednesday, she said the government is still working out the details of the policy, and that’s part of why she was visiting the province.

“Obviously we’ve worked on the high-level policies and the broad spectrum, but there are always details that need to be focused on because the devil is in the details,” she said. “That’s when it helps to really listen to people who are dealing with the stuff on a day-to-day basis.”

Ploughman said there are a lot of people in the fish plant who are worried about where this will leave them.

“We’re worried about the EI changes because where are we going to get hired? Where are we going to work?” she said. “Who’s going to hire me? I’m 63 years old. I’m only qualified to work in a plant. I haven’t worked anywhere in 30-something years. Only here.”

Finley said there will be some improvements to the EI system as part of the changes.

“For example, come August, they’ll be able to work while on claim and keep 50 cents of every dollar right from dollar one that they earn,” she said. “That’s a big improvement over right now, and they seemed pleased to hear that.”

But Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy said he believes this change will hurt fish plants, and make it harder for businesses to find workers.

If workers are forced to take other jobs, when the fish plants open up again, they won’t be in a position to come back.

“Quite frankly, I think the operators of the fish plants in this province will find that depending on the details of the implementations and what the government has in mind, it could be a lot more problematic to get a workforce year after year,” McCurdy said. “Who’s going to be wanting to bounce back and forth like that all the time? I believe that fish plants are at risk of losing workers. So are inshore fishing enterprises.”

Derek Butler, with the Association for Seafood Producers, said he believes that the EI changes will help plants get workers and improve the system as a whole.

“There’s a lot of scaremongering going on; that part of it is unfortunate,” Butler said.

“But in terms of our industry, we’re a seasonal industry; we rely on EI, so we understand we can’t eliminate EI.”

Liberal MP Scott Andrews was quick to react to Finley’s visit to the province.

In a news release, Andrews accused Finley of giving no real answers.

“I’m hearing every day from my constituents that these changes will have a negative impact on their economic well-being,” he said.

“While the EI minister flies into town for a quick visit, she is not able

to alleviate any of their concerns and offers nothing in terms of information.”



Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: RCMP, Allied Workers union, Seafood Producers

Geographic location: Witless Bay.Walking, Ottawa, Witless Bay

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Recent comments

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    June 29, 2012 - 10:08

    @ Mary - Sometimes you have to read things twice to make sure what someone has submitted. After reading your post a couple of times I am truly astonished. The last time I checked the EI program was the Employment Insurance not Daycare Insurance. Make no wonder some of us who actually work 12 months of the year and have to put our children in paid daycare to boot have such disdain for the cavalier attitude that many seasonal workers have towards the EI insurance program. I was originally against the proposed changes to our EI program. After your post Mary I hope this is only the start of the reform process for this program!

    • hahaha
      July 01, 2012 - 20:47

      HAY Foghorn Leghorn maybe u could ask mary to baby sit for u a lot of seasonal workers have cash jobs on the side and still collect da government e.i check

  • chris
    June 29, 2012 - 09:35

    My comment does not imply that people working in the fishery should not get E.I. but that people who avail of this system every year should pay more into the system due to their frequency . My comment is looking at the whole E.I. system not just the fishery aspect of it. I am sure this problem is across Canada so I hope people don't think the E.I. problem is a Newfoundland thing . While we are on the topic of the E.I. /Dole at least these people work . We have people that just don't want to work and they are the ones who are able bodied and should be removed from the system to go and get a job.

  • enough yet?
    June 28, 2012 - 19:32

    Right on Anon, with one exception, bev oda did not stay in a 5 star hotel, 5 stars was not good enough, she stayed in a ROYAL hotel. the rest of your comments are right on and by blaming each other and fighting amonst ourselves Harper gets off the hook.

  • Mary
    June 28, 2012 - 19:25

    I work seasonally in the fishlant while my husband works full time. For us, I get to spend the rest of the year raising our children instead of pawning them off on our aging parents, who we also must care for. EI is all about FAMILY us!

  • KD
    June 28, 2012 - 18:30

    Tom I could not have said any better myself the same goes for any industry the papermills are an example just look at the swiss watch making who choose stand firm on the old technology of watch making while the world past them by. Everything is the same create a product people need and want and make the necessary changes when the demand for products changes very simple the fishery union need to make a change at the top the same with any elected offical who has been there too long they become complacent and resent change then its time for them to go

  • Pierre Neary
    June 28, 2012 - 18:08

    Ms.Ploughman should be scared. Very scared.

  • Anon
    June 28, 2012 - 16:45

    The government wastes money by buying 16 dollar orange juice, five star hotel suites, idling limos on overtime and various things we neither want nor need while we fight wars that the majority of the Canadian people don't want to be fighting. Meanwhile, we're biting at each others throats blaming baymen, townies, mainlanders, fisherman, plant workers etc. instead of raising hell for Harper.

  • BR
    June 28, 2012 - 16:10

    How would Finley react if we cut back her travel by using Skype. Less travel means less work so then we can cut her salary to 70%

  • theTruth
    June 28, 2012 - 15:54

    you people lie on your hours worked for e.i . did you mentioned that to Minister Diane Finley . listen everybody working there counts overtime as 1.5 hours worked for e.i when overtime is only suppose to be counted as one 1 hour worked and when you work 60-70+ hours a week for 3 months overtime adds up. the fishery is one big scam by everybody! they rip the government off every which way they can.

  • mark
    June 28, 2012 - 15:09

    It's time to call it as it is (and I expect to get a major hate on from people for this post): EI is NOT meant and was NEVER meant to be an income subsidy so that seasonal workers could supplant their income 6 months of the year while everyone else is out working. It is meant to provide a safety net whilst WORKERS are looking for NEW employment! What sort of sense of entitlement do these workers have that they feel others should continue to subsidize their half-year jobs? Here's the hard truth - if your livelihood involves working half a year, maybe you should be out looking for some other line of work. This might mean - shock and surprise - you might have to move somewhere else for work or look for new training! The mindset we Newfoundlanders have gotten ourselves stuck in is absolutely disgraceful.

  • theTruth
    June 28, 2012 - 15:03

    you people lie on your hours worked for e.i . did you mentioned that to Minister Diane Finley . listen everybody working there counts overtime as 1.5 hours worked for e.i when overtime is only suppose to be counted as one 1 hour worked and when you work 60-70+ hours a week for 3 months overtime adds up.

  • Tiny Tony
    June 28, 2012 - 12:43

    *facepalm* Don, I am not dead on; I just wrote the most asinine thing I could think of. Of course bashing workers and unions gets a rise out of the intellectual slack arses who couldn’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. Seasonal work is seasonal because it is SEASONAL. Seasons are a result of the earth's axis in proximity to the sun, not because of some union contract. Crops don't grow in the Canadian winter because... well they don't. The EI system has always taken that into account.

    • Joe
      June 28, 2012 - 17:46

      Funniest thing I read all day! I can't believe someone actually agreed with your seasonal comment.... 'You are dead on' ... Hahahahahaha!!!

  • Don
    June 28, 2012 - 11:48

    TO TINT TONY: You are dead on .

  • Tiny Tony
    June 28, 2012 - 11:12

    It's the greedy unions and the lazy workers fault that the fishery is seasonal. They shoud be workin 365. nuff said

    • Don
      June 28, 2012 - 11:46

      I fully agree.

  • Eli
    June 28, 2012 - 10:34

    Again McCurdy speaking with a forked tongue. Since when did he go from roasting plant operators to being concerned about their ability to recruit workers? It's all about dues and his huge remuneration. Too bad more people don't speak to their MP's & MHA's the way that lady plant worker did. She was bang-on this morning speaking on The Morning Show when she pinpointed the fact Finlay's visit there was just a photop. Next time one of 'em shows up in the district tell him or her where to go.

  • saelcove
    June 28, 2012 - 09:59

    the fishermen have ripping the government long enough people who never stepped in a boat collecting EI, people say they paid into ei and are entitled fine the government will pay you until what you paid in is gone and that will take less than 2 months

  • mom
    June 28, 2012 - 09:52

    With all the layoffs and cutbacks everywhere there are no jobs except minimum wage jobs. Personally, I can't afford to pay rent if I get laid off and have to take a minimum wage job. This is not a positive change.

    • Eli
      June 28, 2012 - 14:59

      You know Mom, people are sloggin' their way to a job every day for wages at minimum or barely above. People capable of those same jobs won't take 'em because it pays less than EI or Welfare!

  • Mr. T
    June 28, 2012 - 09:48

    Stann - Good Suggestion!!

  • seasonal worker in newfoundland
    June 28, 2012 - 09:29

    When they say you are going to have to take a job paying 70% of what you previously made are they referring to the hourly rate you made previously or the weekly earnings you made per wee?. If it is based on an hourly rate, anyone making $ 14.28 per hour or less at their current job will be forced to accept a job paying the minimum $ 10.00 per hour. Will they be forced to take a minimum wage job offering fewer hours than what they worked at their previous job? What about if the new job offers only 20 hours a week? Too many questions remain unanswered on a very important change for seasonal workers.

  • Stann
    June 28, 2012 - 09:18

    The people EI should be targeting are those lay abouts who collect EI from their husbands, fathers, and never see a fishing boat all year. Why is that not talked about??. It is rampant and has been for years. TheTelegram shoud do an indepth feature on this. It would be a best seller

  • Christopher Chafe
    June 28, 2012 - 08:56

    Tom B, Chris, Derrick, you hit the real problem right on the nose. Our sense of entitlement has gotten us in a jam, and we don't like not having the govt wipe our backsides and hold our hands.

  • Jordan
    June 28, 2012 - 08:52

    If a 16 year old can get trained to work in grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants and what not, why can't a 63 year old?

    • Denis
      June 28, 2012 - 21:48

      The old saying "Can't is Won't's brother" applies. She probably can, but would rather not. Why would she want to work 12 months like me when she can be part-time worker and at the same time a year-round wage earner...thanks to the dole...opps, I mean EI.

  • paul
    June 28, 2012 - 08:38

    it's going to look some good on the greedy plant owners when these changes come in place because your seasonal workers will have moved on to full time work and they won't be back when they get nice clean jobs elswhere

  • THinking
    June 28, 2012 - 07:59

    Chris, you said it.

  • Harvey
    June 28, 2012 - 07:42

    Diane Finlay...what was the purpose for her visit to Witless Bay yesterday other than to display the high-handed arrogance of the Harper gov't ?

  • enough yet?
    June 28, 2012 - 07:40

    i come here to give you the details but you are not premitted to ask me any questions and I will not answer any questions. the CRAP of Canada.

  • Tom B
    June 28, 2012 - 06:59

    McCurdy and the FFAW are way behind the times. They have had 20 years to try and come up with a new, better way to conduct the Fishery, but they and their members are stuck in the old ways. CBC ran a great story on the Aquaculture industry, how it runs year-round and one producer is building a new processing plant while traditional plants are closing up. 20 years have gone by and all we get from the FFAW is "We will fight, fight and fight again". You do not need to fight. You need to help construct the new fishery, one which involves greater employment in a lot fewer plants. People commute from bay Roberts to St. John's for work, or NL to Ft. Mac, so get used to the new reality.

  • chris
    June 28, 2012 - 06:58

    One thing that should be done is to increase premiums on people who use the EI system more and reduce premiums of those who use it least or not at all.

  • Derrick
    June 28, 2012 - 06:44

    We should have never started this situation, it was an easy out for our governments, part time work then transfer the cost to full time workers. I hope additional changes are made to in-sure the next generation does not get caught in this trap, being able to enjoy a better quality of life, instead of worry for EI hours every year.