EI cutbacks make life tough for White Pass workers

EI cutbacks make life tough for White Pass workers I work for the White Pass & Yukon Route where I work as a section foreman. I'm also our shop steward. Our job is to maintain the track from Carcross to the Alaskan border. The work is both challenging a

I work for the White Pass & Yukon Route where I work as a section foreman. I’m also our shop steward. Our job is to maintain the track from Carcross to the Alaskan border.

The work is both challenging and rewarding. Our job is to ensure that customers have a safe and enjoyable experience on the train.

Our work is also seasonal – as is a lot of the tourism industry. Every year we’re laid off and put on recall until the line opens the next year. That also means that for a good portion of the year, we’re out of work and many of us have to apply for employment insurance, or EI.

In years past, this was a fairly straightforward process: you would fill out an application and send it in along with your employment record. Once the claim is established, you start receiving EI.

This fall, I was deeply disappointed to learn that my claim was running short. Recent changes to the EI program by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives means that the length of time we work during the season, usually about six months long, no longer covers our EI eligibility.

Access to employment insurance has never been an issue before. Stephen Harper’s changes have real consequences for real people like my crew and I, and other seasonal industries across the country.

We don’t go on EI because we don’t want to work. In Carcross, the White Pass and Yukon Route is the largest employer. There just aren’t other jobs when the season ends, and Carcross is no different from most other rural communities in the North.

And without access to EI, a lot of people – my crew included – face the prospect of having to apply for social assistance to put food on the table. It just isn’t right.

We need to demand better from our elected officials, and reversing these ill-conceived changes to the EI program that are putting so many people through undue hardship, all because we chose to work in an industry that doesn’t operate 12 months of the year.

Rick Halladay


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