March 1st was another dark day for rural Newfoundland and Labrador; it was the day that the Hon. Joan Shea, minister of Advanced Education and Skills, and this Tory government put out a press release that affects all rural areas of this province.
As of June 1, 2013, employment assistance services (EAS) for
EI-eligible clients, currently run by third-party services providers, will be delivered through the Department of Advanced Education and Skills.
Minister Shea did not have the courtesy to notify us first so that we could break the bad news to our employees; in fact we found it out from our employees first.
I am speaking as a board member and former chairman of the Green Bay South Education Centre, a volunteer organization that is a third party provider for the employment assistance services for Green Bay South with an office in Triton, which provides services to: Brighton, Triton, Pilley’s Island, Roberts Arm, Port Anson, Miles Cove and Beaumont-Lushes Bight.
EAS provides assistance and information resources for: career development and employment counselling, labour market information, résumé and cover letter, job search, interview preparation, training programs and post-
secondary institutions, employment counselling for adults and youth, referral to outside agencies for educational opportunities and other related services.
Our office also aided clients who needed help with EI applications.
Pulling the plug
Despite that work, on March 1 we were notified that our contract would expire on June 30, 2013 because our services were no longer needed.
There are 52 offices scattered around our province doing the same work as the Green Bay South Education Centre, plus approximately 40 more dealing specifically with youth, women and disabled people.
These offices were contracted out to volunteer organizations, in my opinion, because they were cheaper to run, no unions involved and the managers were volunteers who did not get paid but did it as a community service.
These programs were run by the federal government until November 2009, when Ottawa passed it over to the provincial government to run, and run it they did — right into the ground.
Minister Joan Shea said: we have heard feedback from clients, staff and the public, which indicate there are a number of ongoing challenges with employment programs.
This is the first that I have heard of this and I don’t know anyone who was consulted. All we have ever heard from our clients is praise for the services that we provide and the professionalism of our workers.
Shea went on to say: we need to avoid duplication and inconsistencies and streamline our process to address these concerns and provide better, less-complicated service delivery to help clients find employment.
This is a complete fabrication of the truth. The majority of these employment assistance services offices are far away from any Advanced Education and Skills offices and this will force our clients to travel long distance to get the help they need and they will have to deal with complete strangers, and many of our clients will fall through the cracks, and the people who sometimes need that little bit of encouragement will not get it.
I am not against government trying to consolidate and make services better and cheaper, and I am not so much concerned about the jobs.
I am concerned about the services we will lose in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and the distances and cost to the individuals to travel to get these services.
This government has gone way over budget because of bad spending practices.
They are making the people pay for their mistakes, especially those who live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, where jobs are scarce and people need help in finding employment or training in order to better themselves,
My mother always said Tory times were hard times, but she grew up in the time of the Great Depression and the Tories were in power, but the depression was worldwide at that time and it probably wouldn’t have made any difference what government was in power.
I didn’t believe her then but I do believe her now. I am convinced of one thing: if we don’t get rid of the Tories in this province, we will have nothing left in rural Newfoundland and Labrador
Yes Tory times are hard times, especially if you live outside the overpass.
(Retired) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett writes from Green Bay South.