Month: June 2014

Ontario: Yours To Recover

With apologies to Star Wars fans, I've got a bad feeling about this. Image taken by David Alan Gay, with permission to use freely provided credit is given to the author
With apologies to Star Wars fans, I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Image taken by David Alan Gay, with permission to use freely provided credit is given to the author

If you are a job-seeker (like myself) looking for work in Ontario, to quote a line from “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”, I hope pain is something you enjoy. Don’t expect to find gainful steady work in Ontario for the next 4 years.

The people of Ontario had an opportunity to remove a scandal-ridden spendthrift Liberal government that has lost touch with reality, and has turned a province once the economic engine of Canada into the biggest welfare recipient ever. Our economy is stagnant, creating low-wage part-time jobs that hundreds of thousands of people across generations fight over like cats over a fish. Many families are without family doctors and endure lengthy wait times to see a specialist. Companies are downsizing and moving jobs either out west to Alberta or farming them overseas to India and Singapore.

With all of this in mind, what do the voters of Ontario do? We not only vote them back in, we give them a majority government. We won’t be able to, to use the election expression, “throw da bumz out” for the next 4 years.

Ontarians will now be forced to join a mandatory pension plan that is in essence a new tax on both the employee and employer, so expect more jobs to go bye-bye. Continued investments in the all-day kindergarten program will sap desperately-needed revenue from other services that are falling apart, such as the electrical system, sanitation, hospitals, and roads. Public sector workers will continue to receive generous wage increases while private sector workers will continue to labour and toll to the beat of that hit song “Do more with less! Downsize! Downsize!” sung by businesses. That is, those businesses that still are crazy enough to want to stay here.

Ontario is headed for a social and economic collision course, but Ontarians still have a chance to demand change for the better. I urge Ontarians to write their elected MPP and tell them that they have a lot of work ahead of them to make Ontario live up to the slogan “Good things grow in Ontario”. If the MPPs do not, then we will “throw da bumz out” in 2018.

Ontario is yours to recover, but only if you don’t let a majority Liberal government rife with scandal destroy this province. It’s up to us.

Thanks for reading.

David

Crank Call

I apparently owe Bell Canada over $200 for a phone line that was supposed to be free, and was only meant to last for 2 weeks and not several months. Image taken by David Gay with permission to use provided credit is given to the author
I apparently owe Bell Canada over $200 for a phone line that was supposed to be free, and was only meant to last for 2 weeks and not several months. Image taken by David Gay with permission to use provided credit is given to the author

UPDATE 6/12/2014 11:40 a.m. : Never underestimate the power of social media. Bell Canada responded within hours of this post and is currently working to correct this issue. I will keep you posted on my progress to get this mess cleared up.

UPDATE 6/12/2014 7:43 p.m. : $180.22 of the amount shown in the photo has been deducted from my account. Still pushing for zero total.

UPDATE 9/20/2014 10:35 a.m. : The balance has been reduced to zero. I want to thank Bell Customer Service for acting on my concerns and working with me to remove this amount.

I moved to Kitchener on November 9th, 2013 because I couldn’t afford to live in my apartment any more. I’d like to tell you my move went smoothly, but my mother did not raise me to be a liar. There were a few problems, one of which is the subject of this blog post today.

During the month of August 2013, I called various companies that handled my telephone, Internet, credit card and bank accounts to let them know that I was moving. Bell Canada was informed that both my Internet and land-line services would be cancelled on November 9th, 2013. Bell got the Internet cancellation date right, but cancelled my land-line on October 9th, 2013, one month before my move-out. Since I previously cancelled my last cell phone as a job-seeking cost cutback a while back, I had to contact Bell via their on-line web service. An agent by the name of “Mary” was available and we had the following chat:

Chat Transcript
info: A chat representative will be with you in about 0 minute(s). Thank you for waiting. 
info: Mary has joined the session and is ready to help. To start, please provide your name and home phone number. 
Mary: Hi! Welcome to Bell.ca Live Chat. My name is Mary. How may I assist you today?
You: David Gay, (phone number). I believe there was a misunderstanding regarding the cancellation of my phone line..it was meant for Nov 9th, not Oct 9th
You: I have the order number
You: (order number)
Mary: Thanks for giving me the information needed, I appreciate it. Would you mind staying on line while I look up that information for you?
You: Sure!
Mary: For your home phone to be activated kindly call 310 2355 or  1 800 668 6878
You: Okay, can you explain to me wht happened? Was there a clerical error?
Mary: It was already cancelled last October 9 and the only department who can activate it will be the technical department who handles activation
Mary: Yes the due date was put on October 9
You: That’s an error on Bell’s part. 
You: It clearly was verbally checked for Nov 9th. I have the written notes here
You: I even validated it on the phone
Mary: I really would like to help you on activating your account, however I do not have the proper tools to perform the activation

This is rich. I’m being told that I have to call Bell at the following number listed above to reactivate my land-line but I have no land-line in my apartment (it was cancelled, remember?). The only way I could contact Bell by phone is to go to the East York Town Centre mall where there was a Bell store. After remaining on the phone in the store for an hour, I was told a new telephone number would be assigned for me to use for the remaining weeks living in my apartment, and it would be free of charge. The number was expected to expire on November 9th, 2013.

After I moved out, I didn’t think about this issue again. Sure, it was a boneheaded move by Bell to write down the wrong date for my land-line even though they knew my Internet service which they maintained was also closing down on November 9th, 2013. I just didn’t push it further since they gave me a new land-line free of charge.

During the month of May, 2014, my sister calls me to let me know Bell is after me for money. I initially thought it was for a late payment on my new cell-phone so I called the number left for me to call. To my horror I found out the following information about my free line:

  • It did not end on November 9th, 2013. The service was active for several months long after I moved out.
  • It was not flagged as a free-account and I owed over $200 (see above image).

Even thought it was Bell Canada’s fault for cancelling my original telephone line on October 9th, 2013, even though Bell Canada said it was a free line set to expire after I moved out on November 9th, 2013, I am on the hook to pay that full amount for a service I never used and was told it was free. After repeatedly speaking with Bell representatives, I was informed a collections agency will be harassing myself and my family until I do pay.

Bell Canada, I’m not going to pay one wooden nickel of this amount. This blog post will be circulated throughout the blogosphere, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. I will also contact CTV News and CityTV News to have them do a story on how you persecute the unemployed for mistakes your company made.

Consider this my declaration of total war, and it will be dirty and nasty.

David

Account Ability

A screen capture from the CBC Calgary news about dog treats made in China poisoning pets. Image and story belong to the CBC and associated companies
A screen capture from the CBC Calgary news about dog treats made in China poisoning pets. Image and story belong to the CBC and associated companies

If you watched my YouTube video series, “David Needs A Job”, you know I often bring up the opinion of keeping jobs in Canada instead of farming them out overseas. Some viewers disagreed with my opinion, claiming I’m a protectionist who is against a global economy. That’s untrue: I have no problem with importing goods from overseas and having companies compete across a level playing field globally. The problem I have is exporting jobs out of Canada, leaving Canadians either unemployed or facing the unpleasant prospect of travelling overseas to find work. I’m no fan of seeing families broken up just so someone can earn a buck. That’s just the beginning, however.

The impact of outsourcing goes further than just unemployment. Unlike the Canadian counterparts that they replace, foreign workers overseas do not pay Canadian income tax. These means government revenue needed to maintain services like roads, hospitals, sanitation, the electrical grid, and schools and universities is reduced and the quality of service declines, impacting those who depend on them.

Taking this argument further, it’s important to remember that the unemployed make really lousy consumers. Take myself for example. I’m using free Wi-Fi at the main library in Kitchener right now, and my laptop is plugged into a wall. I’m free-riding both Internet and hydro because I cannot afford either, while the library absorbs the costs. I am also not going on vacations, buying tablet computers, or going to concerts or fancy restaurants. Keeping that in mind, multiply that one person (myself) by a factor of hundreds of thousands and you now have that many people not buying consumer goods. If companies can’t sell their products, they don’t make money. If companies do not make money, they either close down and employees become the unemployed, or downsize, which also lays off workers but not as many. Also take into consideration that if companies downsize, the services they require that other companies supply are also impacted and they too must make difficult decisions that impact workers. The domino effect continues from that point like a financial tsunami across our economy. This is why economists always look to the consumer confidence index when predicting whether the economy is headed toward either a recession or a strong period of growth.

Up to now I’ve argued from a dollars and cents point of view, but there’s also the concern of accountability that needs to be raised. To use myself again as an example, I worked in the Information Technology field for 20 years at three companies. I was not fired from any of those places. I did not work for such a long time in that field because I played golf with the boss, or dated the HR manager. I was responsible for the administration of hundreds of thousands of dollars of hardware and software, and had I behaved irresponsibly during that time, my employment would be terminated quite easily. Had I worked for an outsourcing company in say, India or Singapore, and if I behaved irresponsibly in those same duties, I would not have been as easily removed. I know this for a fact because I have worked with such outsourcing agencies in my career, and found it very difficult to get those contract workers to take ownership and responsibility for mistakes made.

Let’s take that accountability to one involving public safety. How comfortable would you be if essential services were placed under the control of a foreign company or agency? Imagine if, for example with the Walkerton tainted water scandal here in Ontario, quality control of the water was under administration of a private company outside of Canada. Do you think those responsible would be held accountable? What about those products imported from China that contain high levels of lead? If those same products were manufactured in Canada, there would be improved quality control and a greater degree of accountability for the companies and the employees responsible for ensuring those products are safe for consumers. We would not be hearing stories about deadly dog treats and toys that make our children sick.

No doubt there will still be some of you who won’t change your minds about outsourcing even after reading what I wrote here. I hope at least I’ve offered a convincing argument that outsourcing is a decision where careful consideration is strongly recommended.

Thanks for reading!

David

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE USED IN THIS POST

20140608_173842_AndroidToday is my 50th birthday. The so-called career coaches and employment assistance experts would probably tell me not to reveal my age during my job search. To all these fountains of expertise, I’d like to say, “fuck off”. Yes, I did swear in my blog, but it’s my birthday and I’m giving myself permission to tell these know-it-alls where to go.

My thoughts today are of my childhood when I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Originally, I wanted to be a doctor. I had a Visible Man model kit and read a lot of books about the human body. At the age of seven, I could tell you your liver was on the right side of your body and what was the difference between veins and arteries. As I grew older, I unfortunately learned that I did not have the grades to become a doctor. Don’t get me wrong: my grades were actually quite good, just not high enough to get into medical school. It was around that time my Dad brought home a TRS-80 Model I computer, and the rest as they say was history. I found I was very good with computers, and my interest turned into a career that spanned 20 years. I found at last what I wanted to be when I “grew up” and had no reason to revisit the journey taken to get there. Until now.

This is supposed to be a day of celebration. I have made life choices that not only led to a successful 20 year information technology career, I also became a law-abiding citizen, someone my friends and family members could count on. It’s just that I have lost what I wanted to be because of circumstances beyond my control, so that dulls my celebratory mood somewhat. I don’t have a full-time job. I don’t even have a home: I’m a couch-surfer travelling from city to city in search of work. The friends and family members that used to be my network to help me find a job are now offering a temporary place to sleep. I never believed, back in those innocent times, that something like this would ever happen to me. I had dreams and aspirations. What went wrong?

I’m also aware that I now have more years behind me than ahead of me. With this in mind, will I be able to turn things around before I become too old? What is my future going to be like? Is this my future, right now?

Remarkable. I’m back full-circle wondering about what I will be, now that what I wanted to be is no more. The only difference now is that the wondering is not from a child with parents right behind him in case he scuffs his knees playing, but from an adult who knows the situation he’s in is hardly make-believe and more frightening than any imaginary monster under his bed.

Thanks for reading!

David

For The Thirty Nine Percent

This was pretty much my reaction to reading the Workpolis article about nearly 40% of unemployed Canadians giving up looking for work. Picture by David Gay with permission to use freely provided credit is given to the author
This was pretty much my reaction to reading the Workpolis article about nearly 40% of unemployed Canadians giving up looking for work. Picture by David Gay with permission to use freely provided credit is given to the author

In a previous post, I mentioned a Workopolis article that reported nearly half of unemployed Canadians were giving up looking for work. While I’ve always been up front and out there in my opinion that the recovery is not as rosy as the so-called career coaches and employment experts think, even I was in a state of shock after reading it. Before you continue reading this post, please first read what I’ve linked.

Think about it. Nearly 40% of unemployed Canadians are so despondent and without hope that they will find a job, they have surrendered, given up. They are willing to fall through the cracks leading to destitution, financial ruin, and perhaps even homelessness because they see no way of getting themselves back to work. If this image of the plight of the unemployed does not move you or disturb you, you either do not have a heart, or do not understand how bad things really are out there like I do.

I hate reading reports like this, being in the state of employment limbo I’m in right now, but to be honest I’ve been looking for this gem to repeatedly whack over the heads of the ignorant. I’ve had to put with a few people (even some who are friends or family) who simply don’t get why I’m having trouble finding a job. I am in this state because the economy is so bad the unemployed are giving up looking for work in droves. Not a handful of people, 39% of unemployed Canadians.

Not only does this prove the employment situation is really bad, it also shows the advice given about selling yourself like a product, 30 second elevator speeches, signing up for volunteer work, and seeking assistance from employment centres is worthless. The situation we are in right now is so bad that sage advice and confidence building exercises is not enough to fix the problem.

So what’s the solution? If I could wave a wand and banish this hellish situation to limbo, I would, but I know it’s going to take a lot more than that to turn things around.

The economy has to be stimulated to encourage corporate growth and investment in Canada, thus creating more jobs. Government, captains of business and the education and employment services must work closer together to deal with this crisis before it becomes unfixable. I know I’ve said that past line before, lots of times, but this time it’s going to cost us a generation of prosperity if we don’t show the 39% we care, and don’t want to lose them.

We have to do something. Now.

Thanks for reading!

David

Bad Math

Original image from Toronto Sports Media. Ownership and copyright belongs to the author of the media creator
Original image from Toronto Sports Media. Ownership and copyright belongs to the author of the media created

I’ll be frank: job searching is B.S. Not the fact that I need to get a job is B.S.: we live in a capitalistic society so we need money to buy things, ergo we need a job. It’s the process of looking for work that has become an exercise in B.S. The interview process that puts less focus on qualifications and more on how well you sell yourself like a product. The waiting game following the interview where you show interest and follow up while never being told the position was filled weeks ago. The stock rejection letters that contain phrases like “moving on in the process” or “keeping your application on file for future consideration” when the person telling you this has no intention of doing so. The people that tell you that there are plenty of jobs and you are not trying, even though I’m no longer someone with a fixed address, having lost my apartment and couch-surfing throughout southern Ontario from Toronto to Cambridge in search of a job.

Oh yes — THOSE people. Those experts who think the economy is actually doing pretty gosh darn good when in fact, according to the following report, things are so bad people are giving up looking for work in droves. I’ll expand on that report in my next blog post.

I usually ignore the previous B.S. mentioned: more accurately I’ve become desensitized to it. The pseudo-experts on the other hand need a reality check, especially those people who use statistics pulled from the air in their attempt to prove a point.

I came across one such person, named rjd2, on one of the comments section on Workopolis. She claimed to work at an employment assistance centre, or in her own words an employment office (EO). I have no idea why she would use that phrase, since these centres in fact do not get you a job. I suppose it’s one of those expressions like employment insurance, which in fact does nothing to insure you from loss of employment, but I digress.

The comments section was for an article about the worst career advice ever received. I commented that going to employment assistance agencies was the worst advice given and in my experience it’s the truth. For those of you who have been following this blog from the start, you do not need an explanation why I feel this way. If you are a newcomer, let’s save some time by saying I lost a lot of patience, time, and one USB storage fob working with these services.

In that article, rjd2 saw my remark and expressed surprise, stating her office has an over 80% success rate in (I assume) helping clients find employment. So, here we go: a person from one of my most favourite places to deal with (*boom* goes your sarcasm detector) claiming to have quite a success rate helping people find work, without any supporting documentation to back it up. Naturally I had to ask for the name and location of the office, and the report that contains the statistics to back up her claim.

I practically hear the scuffling sounds of a backpeddle when she says she is not comfortable revealing such information, since she posts often under an anonymous name and prefers to remain that way. She suggests I contact the government ministry responsible for the EO funding to get that information.

What a pile of nonsense. She wants to remain anonymous yet was pretty comfortable telling me she works at an EO and quotes a statistical figure that, if worth the percentage sign it sits in front of, has data behind it to validate her claim. On top of that, anyone who has dealt with a governmental department for anything knows the passage of time flows considerably more slowly than normal space/time reality On top of that, there’s no guarantee anyone would release such a report unless a request for information is filed.

I press on and question the validity of that statistic: only fair, no facts, no truth to the number she provided, particularly since she posted under an anonymous nick. She gets incensed and posts what must be the all-time whopper of fear-mongering to justify her reluctance to provide the information I asked for:

“Backpeddling? Hardly. You’re asking for specific reports as well as the name and location of my place of work! You, and anyone on here, could see that and show up here, for all I know.”

Un-Bee-Leave-Able. In her eyes, I’m some crazy psychopath seeking to do harm to her and her colleagues and her reluctance to share the information is because she suddenly feels very unsafe. That justification is practically laughable. If she works in an EO, it’s a public place where there are no security guards, no iron bars, no metal detectors, no sliding bulkheads (at least not the five EOs I’ve been to). If there was really some person with a crazy-on for employment offices, there’s nothing stopping that person from grabbing an arsenal of firearms and walking right on up to that EO to express their kind of complaint. Not that I am advocating any such behaviour of course. Violence is wrong, no matter the reason given.

If she was that concerned for her personal safety, why risk that concern by stating where she worked, and especially providing data that could lead to her location being investigated?

Here’s a more cutting and relevant question. She also states, as quoted, “I can tell you that the ministry (who is responsible for our funding) tracks our numbers closely. We HAVE to maintain a certain success rate in order to stay open”. All right then, if such is the case, why do we have so many people unemployed in Canada, and why are there so many employment centres still open and in operation if they are not doing their job?

Here’s what I feel happened. She probably made up the figure because she was provoked into responding from my negative comment about employment assistance centres. What she did not realize was someone was going to question that statistic. Then again, when dealing with employees who work in an industry that exists only because of the misfortune of others, expect a holier-than-thou attitude when their work is questioned.

It’s no wonder I don’t deal with employment assistance centres any more.

Thanks for reading!

David

Update May 2nd 2016: The exchange between rjd2 and I have long since been erased, in case you were wondering why there are no comments. Elizabeth Bromstein has a reputation for erasing comments that do not lend itself to her view that things are not as bad as they seem employment wise. You know, how a typical employment and career counselor thinks.