Tag: betrayal

Canuckiversary Part 1 – Sensible stuff

The other week we celebrated our “Canuckiversary!” On 4th April, we had officially been here a year! Unfortunately that means that since then, we’ve had to go through and renew EVERYTHING – health cards, Carl’s driving licence, even our library cards! It is very nice to be able to renew them though. Best of all, Carl’s work informed us that our work permits will actually be renewed for THREE years more, not the two we’d thought we’d get. Woopedoo! This should allow us enough time to go through the Permanent Residency application process.

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the Temporary Foreign Workers scheme in Canada, and in particular, certain companies abusing the system. In the worst cases, they were firing Canadian workers, replacing them with temporary foreign workers on considerably lower wages and even worse, giving those foreign workers contracts that forbade them from applying for permanent residency once they got here!! Desperately not good!

This is the sort of situation the LMO process is designed to avoid. There are several sorts of Temporary Foreign Worker schemes, but the one we came in on, the scheme requiring and Labour Market Opinion, is specifically set out so that ONLY skilled foreign workers are allowed into the country, to do skilled/managerial level jobs, once it has been established that there are no suitable candidates to be found locally. And even then, there are a lot of checks,  and prospective employers have to prove that they have advertised the job locally first, and also that they will pay the foreign worker at least the industry-standard wage for the job, so that they can’t undercut Canadian workers. You can’t get an LMO for an unskilled, entry-level job, and you can just go ahead and recruit from overseas without first advertising the position locally for a set amount of time.

On the surface, that sounds like a very fair, sensible system. It is hindered by bureaucracy, but then, *everything* done through national government is. Ours took FIVE  MONTHS to process, and that wait is soul-destroying, which is part of the reason I started this blog! A year ago, I would have advocated that the UK adopts a similar system, to cope with the “influx” of economic migrants from Eastern and Central Europe – if immigrants already have jobs to go to before they arrive, if there hasn’t been any suitable British candidates applying, and if the immigrants can’t undercut British workers, why not let them in? Good luck to them if they actually want to move there!

However, this past year has uncovered some major flaws in the system for me. In addition to the abuses by a certain large national bank mentioned above, my own experiences lead me to believe the system is skewed far too far in the favour of the employers. Basically, after the LMO is approved and accompanying work permit has been granted at the port of entry, there are no checks whatsoever. Once the foreign worker is in place, the employer can do what they like. There’s no follow-up from Service Canada to make sure they are actually doing  the job they got the LMO for. The only ‘insurance’ is that the work permits granted under the LMO system are employer-specific. You can’t chop and change jobs if you entered Canada under this scheme.

In my case, my employers for whatever reason, never trusted me to do the job they’d gone to all the effort of getting me over here to do. Far from being a manager, I was demoted to a waitress position and cleaner before I even started the job properly – hardly the skilled job I’d sold my business and left my husband behind to do! If that were not frustrating enough, they then cut my wage, gave me a new job description with all references to the word “manager” removed, but never gave me a chance to agree to the new contract, and then they started cutting my hours as well, so I was left bringing in about $550 a month less than I was when I started there, but still needing to find the same amount of rent and childcare costs.

This put me in an impossible position. My work permit did not allow me to work for another employer because the permit is job-specific. By cutting my hours and my wage, my employers had effectively breached contract. However, I couldn’t quit and get another job because my permit doesn’t allow me to work for anyone else. If they’d fired me, I could have claimed unemployment benefit, but not if I quit.  I couldn’t apply for permanent residency because I would have needed a supporting letter from my employer and a permanent job contract. My contract that they’d already breached was only for a year. Finally, I couldn’t apply for another LMO document to extend my work permit, because the job I was doing no longer fitted the managerial/skilled criteria that an LMO requires.
I did try to appeal the conditions of my work permit, but the process took months anyway, and was eventually rejected, costing me $300 (non-refundable) for the privilege!

So basically I was left with the “choice” of ‘put up with whatever shit the employers hurl at me’ or ‘give up and go back to the UK’.  A tough choice indeed! I put up with it for much longer than I should have done, but felt like there was no alternative. There is also no one to offer any advice! I could have reported them to Labour Standards I suppose, but they couldn’t do anything about work permits, so eventually I decided it wasn’t worth the stress.

Eventually, I was “rescued” by Carl, or at least, his employers. When my LMO had been granted, Carl got an open work permit to support me. His job has turned out wonderfully, and his employers want to keep him longer than a year, so they applied for a separate, and three-year LMO for him which was approved easily – and I get a three year open-permit to go with it, meaning I can work anywhere. WOOHOO!

That’s how I finally escaped, but the whole thing was a confidence-shattering experience. After the bank scandal, temporary foreign workers got a lot of bad press – of the usual ‘coming over here, taking our jobs’ type remarks. Far from it! If the system works flawlessly, then there is no opportunity for job-stealing. More, the problem lies with the company abusing that system, and the lack of regulation in that system that leaves it open to abuse. Unfortunately, there are occasions when unscrupulous employers are given free-run to take advantage of temporary foreign workers, who are left extremely vulnerable with few real choices and very little help and support inside Canada.

Another Emo moment

Yes, it’s Florence and the Machine. No, I can’t think of anything original tonight. I like the lyrics and the sentiment is very apt at the moment.

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around
And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it’s always darkest before the dawn

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back so shake him off

And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a fine romance but its left me so undone
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me…

p.s. Dear Florence, re: Track 10 (Say my name) “FLORENCE WELCH” Now give it a rest, will you?

An open letter to Mr. Cameron

Today I was told a decision had been made on my application for Job Seekers Allowance. Apparently,  I am “not eligible” for job seekers allowance, even though I am not working at present, and I am looking for work  I was told  I can’t get income based JSA because my husband earns a few hundred pounds a year over the threshold.  I cannot get contributions-based JSA either because my Class 2 contributions from self-employment “are not included” and prior to that I was living off a tax-free university research grant since Oct 2007.

I can’t get any tax credits because I’m not working at the moment.

I can’t get any housing benefit cos we’ve got a mortgage.We would love to sell our house and move to a less economically deprived area with more opportunities, but due to the new policies of lenders demanding a deposit of at least 10%, no one can afford to buy our house. Even if we do find a buyer, we are very very close to being in negative equity now anyway.

I can’t get a job because the few jobs that are available are all minimum wage which won’t cover the costs of putting my 18-month old daughter in childcare. Even my “jobs advisor” admitted that there are few opportunities in this area at the moment. This is the grim North-East, Mr Cameron, I feel I have to remind you of this area’s existence. Life does exist outside the M25, but it is telling that there are virtually no Conservative MPs here. I am fairly confident that neither you nor your government have any idea of what life is like here.

So, apparently my husband is supposed to support himself, me, our daughter, our mortgage and all our various debts out of his (public sector) salary, AND pay tax which goes to support everyone else in that jobs centre EXCEPT his wife.

For my part, I have only ever signed on the dole for three weeks before, in the last ten years. I worked pretty much the entire time I was at university in Durham, I once worked three jobs at once on top of my MA degree, I STILL couldn’t find a good job after that so I went back to do a PhD. After that, there are now even fewer jobs than there were before i started it, so I started my own business. I worked over 50 hours a week, paid myself nothing for a year and eventually had to give it up because I could no longer live off thin air. I have a BA, an MA and a PhD. I speak another language fluently. And I have three years experience setting up and running my own business. I am NOT unemployable, nor am I lazy, stupid or a scrounger.

As the spouse of a millionairess and leader of the party which did the least badly in the last election – (I cannot give you credit for actually winning and being elected – you didn’t and you weren’t), – I have to accept that you represent me and as such, you should be able to advise me on this situation. What exactly am I supposed to do? And what else I could have done differently to make myself more eligible for help?

This is just yet another example of your government’s unthinking ineptitude, and your apparent total disregard to how your policies actually affect ordinary people. As is evident if you bother to read the rest of this blog. I have applied for a job in Canada and we are doing everything we can to move over there. I honestly loathe this country now, I do not feel I can bring my daughter up in the UK with such gross inequality, such a laughable failure for a social services system and the shame of having you and your government as our alledged representatives.

I look forward to your response.

Kave Haz – the real story

Ok that is a bad title. Sounds very Heat Magazine, doesn’t it?  “Betrayal! Scandal! My heartbreaking story!”

Well, I do feel very betrayed, extremely angry and completely gutted, but I’m gonna try and avoid tabloid style sensationalism!

Ok, so the story in brief, which I haven’t really gone in to yet on this blog, started way back in July. Carl and I have been wanting to emigrate out here for years, but of course it is very difficult to do unless you have a job in Canada to go to. Doctor Coffee’s Cafe was painfully quiet over the summer, and one day I had an incredibly bad day at work, came home in a foul mood and googled “coffee jobs, Canada”. Several popped up, including the “Front End Manager” (ahem!!) at Kave Haz in Regina. I sent off my CV to them and a load of other places and didn’t really expect anyone to take me remotely seriously. But Ken did, or at least seemed to. He rang me up the next day via Skype, and said I thought I’d do great at the job, he said he needed a manager because he didn’t really know what he was doing, and he wanted the place to be European style, he liked my accent and so on. He was even talking about letting the manager take over the business entirely in a few years and pay him rent for the building.

I coughed up a lot of money for a flight out to Regina at the end of July, stayed for a week and got all excited with Ken and his family. I even trained up some baristas there. I left having got a written job offer letter and he sent off the forms for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO)which, if successful, would enable me to get my work permit. The last thing he said to me at the airport was “I can’t do this without a manager”

The LMO took TWELVE WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS TO ARRIVE. This was agonizing because I did not know what to do. It could have been rejected at any point, and so I couldn’t make any concrete plans about selling my cafe, or our house, or whether Carl should quit his job. During that time, I tried to stay in touch with Ken, but he never rang me, and we only talked when I caught him on Skype. I also got a few very very brief emails (with no punctuation), but nothing in any depth. To be fair, he did sound despondant and said the cafe wasn’t going well, and also that he had “lost” two chefs – which is another matter I’ll come to in a minute. He did say that he wasn’t sure how he would pay me at one point, but most significantly, he never once said “there is no job here, don’t bother coming.” Not once. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that he was retracting the job offer.

Finally, the LMO was approved at the end of October. Ken bothered to call me to tell me. He did warn me that all was not well, but I naively assumed he was being overdramatic and said I would come out and sort things out. Meaning, trying to give him a confidence boost with the place, and get a formal start date for the job. I also needed the time to look for somewhere to live, and for Carl and Miranda to see the place too. I would have thought it was fairly obvious at that point that I was serious about the job offer, and that I genuinely believed there was a job to go to. When I say “I’ll fly out and we can talk about starting work” – you’d think that would be a good opportunity to say “Sorry, there’s no job” wouldn’t you?? But Nooooooooooo.

So, on the basis of a successful LMO application, a job offer in writing, and the fact that Ken knew full well what I was doing, I transferred my cafe business over to Jo. This was pretty emotional for all, and I do still think I was more generous to her than I could really afford to be, but I wanted her to have it and keep it ‘ours’ rather than selling it to a total stranger. But anyway, I ‘sold’ it… that’s it. No more cafe for me.

Then I flew out to Regina with Carl and Miranda.

We spent a couple of days hanging around in Kave Haz, Ken was very busy, and he said he was stressing, still saying he doesn’t know if he could afford to pay me, and that I shouldn’t talk of full time work. Worrying, but I was imagine maybe starting off part time, and helping him build the place up a bit. the fact that he was still suggesting houses and apartments we could rent near the cafe gave me enough hope.

Then he went in to hospital for this knee surgery, said he’d see us on Monday. Monday turned in to Thursday (by which time Carl had left – which was a pain cos I was getting highly suspicious and I want him there for moral support!). Thursday eventually turned in to Saturday morning, by which time I’d pretty much given up anyway, and done my radio interview and heard from some far more positive people. I should point out that Ken NEVER rang me that week, it was always me calling him and trekking down to Kave Haz on the bus.

I kinda demanded a straight answer. He said he thought he’d been pretty straight with me already??? er,… riiiiight. Even then, he STILL didn’t say “there is no job, sorry” he just said he couldn’t pay me. He also seemed convinced that he’d warned me about the state of the place, and I was stupid for selling up and coming out. I replied that I did it on the basis of a successful LMO, a job offer and nothing to tell me the job had vanished, and that he knew full well what I was doing and didn’t stop me. Again, he never told me not to. At this point it got nasty – he kinda realised he’d majorly screwed up and had been caught out and instead of apologising, he basically just sulked, saying it was my fault for trusting him, that I was inventing things and reading too much into what had been said. I did point out there are few other interpretations to “Dear Annabel, We are pleased to offer you the job of Manager at Kave Haz….” But nooooo, apparently, he only wrote that letter to satisfy the conditions of the LMO. Oh and that “Erika – ” (his wife) “told me not to send off the LMO because you’d think it was a serious job offer.” WTF? What planet is this guy on?? Apparently, there was a job but he needed the manager in July. But it’s not like he didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to start then – he was the one who filled out the LMO!  So, incredulous, I asked why he’d offered me it, and why on earth he hadn’t cancelled the LMO when he realised there wasn’t going to be a job. Apparently “because he was doing me a favour.” Nice favour, it’s really useful without a job to go to isn’t it!? Then he start accusing me of all sorts, saying I wanted to change the place (well, the coffee is cheap and nasty and the machine is crap – but then, the point of employing me as manager would be to develop the place, right?). Basically, he got pissed off and desperate, and turned into a sulky teenager. This didn’t help my mood at all – at the very least he could be mature and reasonable about it, and apologise. The final straw was when he said I was talking too loudly and that he couldn’t understand why I was angry!!!

So, I just stormed out of there, threatening to sue him. I probably could, if I could be bothered. Essentially he cost me my business. I also had a few discussions with three people, independent of each other and all of which shall remain nameless, who have warned me off him, talking of total lack of communication and not receiving payments and so on… I may have to queue up in the solicitors!!

So, fortunately, I seem to have got myself sorted elsewhere, not thanks to Mr Ken Ramage. I do really worry for the people still working for him, and I really suggest, if you are reading this and you are in Regina, then AVOID THE PLACE LIKE THE PLAGUE.