Month: January 2014

Bare Minimum

Source of image from CTV News Toronto. Click the picture to view the news story online.

The last time I worked for minimum wage was when I worked at the Eglinton Theatre as an usher at the age of 17. While it was a step up financially from what I earned mowing lawns, painting fences and shovelling snow, it barely covered the cost of clothes, records, and my transit pass.

Fast-forward to 2014 and I’m in the process of rebuilding (rebooting?) my employment after the 2008-2009 recession. I’m back at minimum wage again and, as before, it barely covers my personal expenses.

It is for this reason I took interest in a proposal to increase the minimum wage in Ontario from $10.25 to $14.00. The proposal was tabled by a group that included ACORN, Worker’s Action Centre, and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The argument is a sound one, at least on paper: the minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 for the past three years, while the cost of living has no doubt increased. People living at the poverty line (where technically I am at right now) can afford very little with the money they have.

The real problem that no one seems to recognize, however,  is not about the current minimum wage.  It’s the scant number of jobs available for those looking for work, including entry level jobs that pay minimum wage.

We already live in a jobless recovery in this Age of Austerity, yet if the the minimum wage is increased too much, companies will operate with even fewer employees due to increased payroll costs. Instead of helping people living in poverty,  more people will end up unemployed if not underemployed, and that increases the ranks of the impoverished in our society.

It’s been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I believe this proposal is one example of such intentions that will generate the opposite of what is desired.

If we want to get people out of poverty, we need to give them more jobs to apply to, including those at minimum wage.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. As of January 30th 2014, it has been announced the government of Ontario will increase the general minimum wage to $11 per hour on June 1st, 2014.

The Get Is Going

Worst. Selfie. Ever.
But it still captured my current mood at this point of 2014.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted earlier this month.

I’ve done some temporary work, one through Ranstad Canada that went far longer than the 4 days scheduled. While it meant rescheduling a few personal appointments to accommodate the change, the Randstad assignment was worth it. It brought both a bit of income and some work history I can prattle about at my next interview.

The temporary work is one of many things that I have been doing to get some employment traction here in Kitchener. I’ve been having regular meetings with my contact at Northern Lights Employment Assistance Centre, and have been looking into the idea of going back to school (an idea I have looked into many times through Second Career only to be denied funding).

The back to school idea raised a few eyebrows with members of my family, since I am turning the big Five Oh in just a few months: what’s the point of going into debt for something that will, at best, give me 17 years of return before I retire? I mean, It’s tough enough to pay off an OSAP loan when you are in your twenties. Do I really want to consider carrying a loan on a pension? While I have not committed to anything that would cost money to take, there are free learning programs on the Internet that could show the next interviewer I’m not just sitting on my six doing nothing. For example, I registered with Codecademy to start a course on how to program in Python, and will learn other programming languages there once I’m done with that.

Despite the upbeat tone of this post (and the selfie shot), it’s not back to normal for me just yet, employment-wise. Temp work is not enough to sustain myself independently. It won’t even cover getting a new pair of glasses or filling a cavity I recently discovered. On top of that, the recent ice storm in Ontario last December has impacted the holiday season. Retailers did not make the mega Christmas sales needed to carry on in the New Year, so expect news about more layoffs with the ice-storm and the poor Christmas season cited as the cause.

I’m also still struggling with rebuilding my social network, again the ice storm playing a role in that as well. Without a robust social network in Kitchener, I’m still working at a disadvantage on that front where finding employment is concerned. You can’t find a job going at it as a lone wolf.

Despite this, my plans to get going at finding work is…well…going. Whether it continues this way on the course plotted will depend largely on my continued efforts to find work using all means necessary, with a bit of luck sprinkled in.

Thanks for reading!


Much To Do About Nothing

A screen capture of Maveric Media's production, "Will Work For Free", on YouTube. The video and image is copyright of Maveric Media and those involved
A screen capture of Sam Vallely’s production, “Will Work For Free”, on YouTube. The video and image is copyright of Sam Vallely and those involved

Happy New Year!

I just finished watching a fascinating YouTube video about technological unemployment, called Will Work For Free. It was created by Sam Vallely. The topic of technological unemployment is nothing new to most of you. From the introduction of mass production in manufacturing to the impact of the personal computer in the workplace, we have seen how jobs disappear and people are rendered unemployed whenever a new way of doing business arrives on the scene. In my case, the events that led to my unemployment 4 years ago was outsourcing I.T. into the hands of another company. Outsourcing became possible due to reliable and affordable high speed telecommunication networks.

What has not been as greatly discussed is what to do with those people who find themselves out of work because technology has rendered their jobs obsolete. In past workplace upheavals, the economy was strong enough to handle the transition process for those unemployed to find new jobs. Not so in the post-2008 economic working world: not only has technology offered a faster and cheaper way of doing business, it has given the “We must do more with less! Downsize! Downsize!” advocates a way of doing business with far fewer people as well.

So what do we do with all these people who have lost their means to earn an income? The career coaches tell them to go back to school for career retraining but universities and trade schools are expensive and governments are cutting back on funding for career transition programs. The callously ignorant tell them to get off their self-centred entitlement trip and start applying for work outside of their past career paths, yet companies are taking away entry level positions and stopped “on-the-job” training and mentoring programs for new hires. The employment centre specialists tell them to take more volunteer work to reduce the gaps on their resume and to improve their chances of landing a job, but since volunteer positions only exist because agencies and corporations have no money to pay salaries, it’s those same unemployed who end up investing their time and expenses for, in most cases, nothing in return.

Simply put, we end up with a massive amount of people that society has no clue what to do with.

I’m not saying we should halt technological advances that threaten employment. It’s the base nature of humanity to progress forward for a better way of life. I’m just suggesting that more time should be spent considering what to do with those people who will be affected when their jobs disappear. I’ve said this before in my videos on YouTube and in past blog posts, but if you end up with people who have nothing to do, they in turn are not giving anything back to society.

Thanks for reading!