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Finance Minister Bill Morneau doesn't understand 'job churn' anxiety

He has not experienced the mental anguish of not knowing if he will lose his home, writes Shannon VanRaes.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau listens to a question during a news conference in the courtyard of a college in Ottawa on September 26, 2016.


Finance Minister Bill Morneau listens to a question during a news conference in the courtyard of a college in Ottawa on September 26, 2016.

I never intended to make welding a long-term career, but after buying pricey steel-toed boots, Kevlar-lined gloves and taking safety training, I thought my illustrious streak manufacturing brake components would last more than a few weeks.

How wrong I was.

Less than a month after agreeing to give a job placement centre part of my wages for the honour of working in a hot, hazardous, non-unionized shop, I had a lay-off slip in my hand. 

Fast forward to my time reporting for a certain daily tabloid in this city where I was again laid off, this time a mere nine days before Christmas. I was never paid for my last day of work and received not a dime of severance. It then took more than a month and the threat of legal action to get my record of employment so I could finally apply for unemployment insurance and avoid destitution.

My next job was also cut short without severance and so the cycle began once again. 

Knock on wood, but today things are fairly stable — at least for me. I only have to look to friends and family to find people in precarious employment, individuals working on contracts, as freelancers, part-timers or in seasonal endeavours.

And apparently that's A-Ok with the federal finance minister. 

Last week in Niagara Falls, Bill Morneau said that Canadians should get used to “job churn” or moving from "job to job to job." No doubt Morneau is up on such employment trends, after all he only resigned as the executive chair of Canada's largest human resource company Morneau Shepell last year.

His father founded the company and, after attending a private school in Toronto, the London School of Economics and doing a stint at Lloyd's of London, the younger Morneau joined the family business, which according to its website "helps clients reduce costs, increase employee productivity and improve their competitive position."

I don't begrudge the Minister or his family their success. After all, who doesn't want a second home in the south of France. But let's be blunt here — Minister Morneau has never experienced "job churn." He has not wondered if he'll be able to pay for his children's post-second education or their lunches. He has not experienced the mental anguish and anxiety of not knowing if he will lose his home, get a second contract, receive benefits or be able to retire.

Job churn isn't just an inconvenience and it's not about retraining because of shifts in technology or a mid-life career change. Job churn is about companies and employers shirking even basic responsibilities to their workers to save a few bucks. It's about employers using contracts to avoid paying benefits and turnover to prevent wages from rising. Job churn is about successive governments that favour business owners and build a weak regulatory environment that allows for labour abuses.

Morneau telling Canadians to get used to job churn is like telling a drowning man to get used to water while standing on the shore. Yeah, maybe Morneau's got a life preserver in his hand, but what Canadians really need is someone who will find a way to keep them on dry land.

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