By ANDY BARKER
In a conversation with my late, dear father, as he lay on his deathbed (d.1986), I remember saying, "I saw, so and so uptown today, and he looked good." My father's quick response, "He never worked."
I knew right away it was my father's way of saying it was easy to look good if you had an office job at the mill and weren't worn out from work like many of its blue collar workers.
Even with all the technology, a blue collar job, such as an iron worker, is still able to drain you after 40 years or so on the job. Yet, there are jobs (social workers, teachers, military, police, etc.) that can drag you down mentally, and thus, physically.
Jobs, pensions and unemployment insurance are ongoing heated topics in Canada. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on May 12, "There is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job." Such an asinine comment could come only from a person who my father would classify as, "He never worked."
Would Flaherty still repeat those words if he had to punch in a week on the killing floor, or on the production line in the meat packing plant in Brooks, Alberta that has the E.coli problems?
If Flaherty had said those words to me in January 1964 in the dusty, dirty pellet plant in Labrador City (often up our arses in pellets, shoveling them back on a load out belt), I would have dinged him on his hard hat with my shovel.
And landlubber Flaherty's words could have had him tossed over the side by my brother-in-law when they were caught in a storm on the northeast coast while still hauling in their gill nets.
Minister Flaherty and the Harper Government are now saying to people doing all the tough jobs - you will have to hang on for a few more years to get Old Age Security. Those born in 1963 and later will have to wait until age 67 to pick up their cheque. Two more year’s work could be rough years for many blue and white collar workers. Thankfully, I am not in that boat.
In 2000, I was fortunate to be able to exit teaching (and school libraries) at age 55. I had no other work plans, but an opening at the College of the North Atlantic library had me apply for a job in the area I had worked for 26 years.
Being on a provincial pension, I was not considered as the first choice for the job. But coming in second has made me a winner with a seasonal part-time job since January 2002. How soon will I finally exit the job market? Who knows? But I know I wouldn't have that attitude if I were still shoveling iron ore pellets!
Worker shortage is driving companies and governments to encourage more and more workers to stay around longer; and not necessarily doing the same job. Change is as good as a rest. Even now retired workers regularly go back to their former work place for short-term contracts. Their skills and experience make it a win-win for both sides with no pressure on the retiree as the full time job used to be. As well, part time work has economic, social and mental benefits. Plus, such workers pay more taxes.
As for older workers, it will be interesting to see who staffs the new Kent store. Retailers, the restaurant industry and tourism are relying more and more on the older generation, the nans and pops to keep things moving, the dollars rolling in. But a business can's stake its future on them - they're dying breed!
Glitches such as inappropriate skills, lack of apprentice jobs, low education or lack of mobility can keep young people from getting full time jobs. But even correcting glitches for younger workers and having retirees return to work will not solve future job needs. Canada and Newfoundland are short of workers already.
Former PC cabinet minister Paul Shelley says this province will need workers to replace the 60-70,000 expected to retire in the next eight to 10 years. His company (Work Global Canada) is recruiting workers in Ireland, Bosnia, Poland, Philippines and Korea for companies here and the Maritimes. And just this past weekend the Iron Ore of Company of Canada (with the Canadian delegation) was in Dublin, on the hunt for the hundreds of skilled workers it will need in Labrador City over the next five years.
Worker shortage begs the question, "Has birth control and abortion worked too well?” That question has nothing to do with religious or moral issues - just pure, raw facts.
Statistics Canada shows that our province (population 512,659 in 2011-12) has a birth rate of 1.58 births per 1000 women with 4833 births, which pales compared to 12,700 births in 1971 (pop 530,854). And the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows our province had 956 abortions in 2009 (93,755 for Canada). We're going down the tubes - literally!
A solution to the worker shortage seems obvious - more babies. But to turn the birth rate around we are going to need revolutionary thinking - a new paradigm - a model that provides economic and social support to women and families like no other time. Ain't going to happen, is it? She's gone b'y, she's gone!
However, our population sinking into oblivion could very well make a fortune for Paul Shelley in the coming decades as his company recruits foreign workers for a Newfoundland that might
become the new Alberta with workers, flying in - flying out.
Got to go. Paul Shelley has friended me on Facebook wanting to know about my idea for gearing up the old mill to make robots to fill the growing gap of - too many jobs and too few humans.
Just joking about Facebook. As for the robots idea, if you see any around town, they won't be running for council; as people tell me now the televised meetings seem all too robotic!
Andy Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org