Forced Work

“Conservative legislation restricting access to EI benefits risks forcing people into jobs they don’t want…” writes Bill Curry of The Globe and Mail. *

(*EI is “employment insurance,” ostensibly a more positive denotation that Canada uses for its unemployment benefits program.)

By “forced” labour Mr. Curry probably does not mean to imply that slavery or indentured servitude is proposed but what else does forcing people into jobs mean? No person is forced to work. An employee agrees to work for an employer under certain conditions. If the job is not something he wants to do then he can quit once he finds something else he wants to do. Until that event, what moral right does he possess that entitles him to receive unemployment benefits, which is in essence a social welfare program.

The point of Mr. Curry’s article is that certain provisions of existing legislation allow EI claimants to reject jobs they don’t want thereby allowing them to continue receiving benefits instead of going to work, which he apparently believes is a good thing and perhaps should be continued.

Currently, an EI recipient may turn down an available job under any one of the following provisions:

  • ·        It is not his usual occupation.
  • ·        It is at a lower rate of pay.
  • ·        It involves “conditions less favourable than those … recognized by good employers.”

There could still be a lot of telephone switchboard operators, coopers and blacksmiths out there who cannot find work in their usual occupation. They have moved on to using personal computers, studying information technology or learning new skills and trades.

Work—like everything else—is subject to change, progress and even obsolescence. Change is a constant.

Some regions of Canada cannot find enough appropriately skilled workers to satisfy recruiting requirements. A culture of change and improvements in productivity should be encouraged.

The solution is not to keep people on public benefits or to preserve jobs that are not in demand. People are not entitled to work at their same job at ever-increasing rates of pay above market for as long as they care to work, as labour leaders and Bill Curry apparently believe.

©Copyright 2012 Edward Podritske

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