Moncton — With an unemployment rate that’s swelling toward 15 percent, Moncton is putting together a plan that could drastically decrease that number while helping to ease the burden of employee absenteeism that most companies face daily.
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc held an information session at the world-renowned Angie’s Show Palace located in Dieppe, where he gave an overview of the proposed plan. “The idea first came to me while I was at a recent fundraiser for the fight against fundraisers. We want to put an end to fundraising as we find it puts too much pressure on people to donate money to a cause that they don’t necessarily care about. We need donations to get this initiative started.”
The sidetracked mayor got back on point and further explained the substitute worker plan: “So, I kept asking people ‘what do you do for a living?’ and everyone kept telling me that they were substitute teachers. That’s when the idea came to me.”
LeBlanc explained that the program would be mandatory for anyone who is collecting employment insurance and would set them up with co-operating businesses and workplaces. Interested employers would go through the inspection process and provide training documents for all potential substitute workers. Substitute workers would then be required to sign up for at least 10 different jobs they’d be willing to do, and would have to work on an on-call basis or risk the chance of being denied their unemployment cheque.
The mayor said he has already had more than 50 workplaces from the Greater Moncton area begin the application process. “All different kinds of places too,” he insisted. “Retail stores, grocery stores, cab companies, restaurants, the hospital — and even here at Angie’s, just to name a few.”
Reactions were mixed between employers, business patrons and potential workers. Rose Kirkland, 38, from Moncton, expressed concerns about being a consumer in this kind of program. “What if I go to the grocery store and need to find some ingredients for a recipe I’m making?” she asked with obvious concern. “How am I supposed to feel confident with the service I’ll get? For all I know, this could be just some guy off the street here for the day. They slap an apron and a nametag on him and say ‘Go to work.’ I want to be sure I’m getting help from a highly trained and skilled professional.”
Jeffery Franklin, 24 and unemployed, expressed his dismay as well. “This is bullshit!” he offered. “The whole reason I’m on pogey is because I don’t want to work. Obviously if I wanted to work, I would. I like being able to do nothing and get paid for it — it’s like I’m a city worker.”
There were also those who thought it was a great initiative, like Rebecca Perrault, a local business manager. “I love this idea; I think it’ll be great for my business,” she enthused. “Absenteeism is a huge problem for my store. I have people calling in sick all the time and no one will ever come in if I phone them. They complain about not having enough hours, but then they never want to take any available shifts – it’s very frustrating.”
The proposed plan is in the final stages of approval from city council, and could be implemented by spring 2015.