Federal cuts hit hard locally

I look at the recent announcement for lost jobs within the public service in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I consider the base of seasonal employees who work for the good seasons and are obliged to collect employment insurance to sustain themselves when they are given notice of a completed season or a complete work stoppage.Think how difficult it will be in the next year or so when the announced cuts at Service Canada take place and calls are routed to a non-local service centre where you may no longer have public servants or service, but a call centre employee who is uncertain of the full services provided, but can read scripts and promise that a service officer will be in touch with you should your complaint need “expert” care.

This care would have normally been provided from Glace Bay and your claims would have been processed in Sydney. This will no longer be the case. These services are being moved, uprooting families from the communities they have lived in and supported.

If that wasn’t bad enough, just a couple of weeks ago, cuts came to the DFO licensing centres across the country. This means both sides of the island will lose licensing officers. These personnel are those who ensure that each fisher is renewed and able to fish each year, that lobster and crab tags are distributed, and that any changes from the previous year are made known to the client — the fish harvester — at the window.

These services will be handled by technology that involves logging into an account, paying with a credit card, and hoping that your email account and home computer can handle the documents that you require to fish. I have yet to figure out how the tags are going to fit in the printer.

Fish harvesters need to prepare to spend more money on tags and replacement tags due to storms, not to mention a less impartial distribution of tags if it is run by a private person or community leader, and no calls to remind you that you have failed to pay for that fishery that begins at midnight the next day.

As well, there will be cuts to science and multi-year plans that will replace annual meetings. These meetings discussed total allowable catch based on science; now I guess it will be based on trends, catch rates, or someone picking a lucky tonnage number.

Let every public service worker in Cape Breton be awake at the wheel. The Harper government is looking closely at all departments and agencies, so you had better be looking at alternative job opportunities and potential to relocate to maintain your income, while the upper one per cent of those who control 90 per cent of the public wealth aren’t even taxed fairly and still ask for government assistance before they ever spend private investment dollars.

This Harper regime is not concerned about the maintenance of a workforce in Cape Breton. Their bean counter executives, who were provided bonuses in order to cut the public service, will ensure your taxes stay higher and your service is gone.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty suggested that university students should apply to government for employment. These aren’t kindergarten students, but university graduates who will be employed by private employers who value the best of the job market.

The employer of choice has failed not only its current workforce, but also all clients who depended on services related to passports, pensions, employment insurance and fishing licenses being provided locally.

I am beginning to think these “Occupy” protesters may have some true causes to fight for; we can’t wait for the next payment for serfdom from King Harper and his band of not-so-merry men.

John Couture, steward
UEW Local 80166

Published November 5th, 2011 in the Cape Breton Post