Tag: work permit

The portal is closing….

This is in response to the new changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program. There has been a lot of coverage of this in the press already, but unless I’ve missed it, no one has yet actually asked the views of the people actually in the middle of this program – ie: the foreign workers themselves.
I’ve picked the Globe and Mail article because it’s a national newspaper and, well, it was the first one I found. Taking out all the editorial and opinion pieces though, they all say pretty much the same anyway!
Here’s the original article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/jobs/ottawa-set-to-unveil-sweeping-changes-to-foreign-workers-program/article11601857/

“The federal government will announce sweeping changes to the temporary foreign workers program Monday, aimed at ensuring non-Canadian workers are employed in this country only after every effort has been made to put Canadians in the jobs first.”

– “sweeping changes” says it all. I’ve found nothing to suggest that these changes were on the cards before the RBC scandal broke. In other words, this sounds very like a knee-jerk reaction, and the Tories are just trying to be seen to be Doing Something.  The system ALREADY includes a process that should ensure the Canadians are given the opportunity first – it just needs enforcing better, not completely re-writing. A Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is exactly that – an opinion on the local labour market that identifies a skills shortage. They are only approved for skilled/managerial level jobs, and only after the prospective employer demonstrates that they have tried to recruit locally for a set amount of time, and not found any suitable, Canadian candidates.

“Other measures, to be announced either Monday or at a later date, are expected to require employers to pay a fee for a permit to hire from overseas.”

This is the bit that really, really annoys me. I can see the logic behind it: why should Canadian taxpayers pay for the system that gets foreign workers in to do local jobs? However, to my mind, this is going to severely hamper the system – both from the point of view of small businesses who can’t necessarily afford it, and for the would-be immigrants who then not only need to find a job, but also find an employer who is willing to cough up the fee, AND wait whilst keeping the job open for that person for the months it takes for all this bureaucracy to process. Even the old system was problematic for small businesses, because if you have few staff and are seeking to hire a key worker, the chances are you’d struggle to keep the business afloat during the ridiculously long wait for the application to go through anyway. As I have pointed out repeatedly, my LMO took an epic five months to go through, and I was just lucky that my employers waited for me (not that I ended up doing the job I was originally offered, but that is a different issue). To my mind, adding a fee on to that as well would be enough to make most small business rule out the option entirely.

“The reforms – which will also address the question of wage discrepancies between foreign and Canadian workers doing identical jobs – aim to reduce abuse of the system while not shutting off the tap supplying an essential source of workers.”

Rubbish. Again, the old system did address wage discrepancies – or at least, aimed to prevent temporary foreign workers undercutting the local labour market. Under the old system, a Labour Market Opinion document was only granted if they employer was willing to pay “the going rate” or the local average wage for that specific job or industry. My LMO was actually refused initially because my employers weren’t offering me the provincial average for the role.

The problems with the original LMO system arose from very large companies basically flouting the rules, fudging the applications, and exploiting the workers they brought in. To combat this, the CIC or Service Canada need to be a bit more rigorous with enforcing the existing system, and – most importantly – do checks on the company and the workers after they have entered Canada to check that the foreign workers are actually doing the jobs set out in the LMOs, check they are being paid what they should be according to the job description, and in the case of RBC, check that they are not actually being trained to replace Canadian workers facing redundancy!

There is no need to charge a fee for the application: big businesses will hardly be affected, and if they are determined to flout the system anyway, they won’t be dissuaded by an additional fee. The fee only hurts small businesses and makes the program an option exclusive to huge multinational companies. If a fee has to be charged, it should be in return for much faster, more efficient processing times so that small businesses don’t have to struggle to hold a job open for so long.

From the perspective of would-be immigrants, making the leap into Canada is difficult enough already. Either you get in on the Temporary Foreign Worker program – which in turn, means finding a job in Canada from outside the country, then persuading your prospective employer to not only apply for an LMO, but also hold the job open for you for several months – and then making your own way to Canada and paying for your initial work permit, and then going through the whole process again with even higher fees as soon as you are eligible to apply for permanent residency….

OR,

There’s the Federal Skilled Worker program, a process which can easily take over two years to complete, and which also requires you to have $12000 Canadian dollars  in cash, after the already steep fees for the application process, and on top of all your moving costs, to support yourself while you look for a job in Canada. Practically speaking, you couldn’t really look for a job in Canada from outside the country under this system, because you wouldn’t be able to tell your employer when you’d be able to start. Also, the backlog of applications for this program was so long in recent years that they just cancelled ALL the applications, refunded everyone’s money and restarted the whole system from scratch.

We started the whole process of emigrating when my daughter was one year and one month old. By the time we got here (even going through the LMO program), she was nearly two, (10 months in total) and the whole thing cost us over $10000. To reiterate, that was the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The Federal Skilled Worker program wasn’t even an option for us – whereas we did qualify under the points system, we don’t have that sort of money anyway, but more significantly, we couldn’t put ourselves into that program with no guarantees of the timescale and no guarantees of employment nor income, not with a small child in tow. You can’t plan your family’s future with the vague hope that you’ll get to emigrate “sometime in the next few years”, it’s just not practical, especially when children’s schooling, your own career and most problematically – your mortgage, are all up in the air indefinitely during the application process.

For the vast majority of people the Temporary Foreign Worker program, while difficult enough, is the only realistic method of emigrating to Canada. Watch any news program about Europe and you’ll see why there are many people wanting to escape. This article quotes the Canadian unemployment rate as being “stubbornly 7%” – well, the European average is now 12.1%. In the UK there’s around 2.6 million people unemployed: that is over twice the total population of Saskatchewan. Despite this regressive, knee-jerk reaction legislation, Canada is a wonderful place to be. If there are jobs to be done, let us in to do them.   Please don’t close our only portal!

 

 

 

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.

The Never-Ending To Do List….!

… is very nearly done!

We have here exactly one week. What a weird, weird thought!!

We both have a mental To Do list which gets added to more often than we achieve anything from it, it seems. However, having a pause, a good coffee and a natter with friendly people and a ‘check-in’ with the Parents on Skype gave us the opportunity to take stock of what we have managed to do in such a short, insane week. We’ve actually done very well.

I have a Canadian bank account. I also have a SIN – social insurance number. Both these were up there in the High Priority list, as with them, I can now get paid!! Both were alarmingly simple to achieve as well, considering the hassles getting the work permit!

We have an almost-fully furnished apartment. That is, we bought a new bed and a new dining table, bought second hand bedding, a rug and toys for Miri, and acquired a sofa and a coffee table from our new friend Tamara. The kitchen still needs crockery and utensils and a microwave, but otherwise we can sleep, sit, cook and eat relatively comfortably.

Almost sophisticated!
Untidy already - my work here is done.

Carl is comfortable with driving Humunga-Cars on the wrong side of the road now.

Miranda has a place at day care! That took a bit of finding and didn’t end up being as cheap as we’d hoped. However, it is a special Reggio Emilia (sounds like a cheese to me??) – approach nursery, and the owner seems lovely and very enthusiastic. It is also located less than a minute’s walk away from here and Miri didn’t want to leave when we took her there this morning for a visit!! This isn’t the same one as I mentioned in the last post – sadly that one didn’t have any spaces available. But this one is equally nearby and had places available for Miri’s age group, so it’s all worked out rather well! I am NOT looking forward to her starting there though – think she’ll love it, but I am going to miss her and worry about her like crazy!

Miranda and I made the first Canadian UglyCake the other day. It was very successful considering the total lack of bakeware and equipment.

All this, I feel, is not bad for a week’s adventuring.

We are also slowly exploring more of the neighbourhood, and the more we find, the more we like it here. The wonderful, positive things include SUNSHINE. It seems like it’s always sunny, even when there’s snow. Everyday is clear and (at the moment) crisp and beautiful, and there is none of that depressing, constant greyness that pervades the UK for at least 9 months of the year. Grey, miserable weather makes me feel grey and miserable too. Here, I can be achingly cold but still irrepressibly cheerful, just because it’s sunny and it’s not Darlington.

I do just feel far better in myself in terms of general well-being. I have not had any problems getting to sleep at night since we got here. I am not anxious, I don’t feel tired during the day much, and my hair has stopped getting greasy a mere two hours after I wash it. I am able to grow my fingernails. I have noticed a bit of a change in Carl too – he seems more confident and a bit more outgoing than usual. Miranda has just taken everything in her stride as usual, and doesn’t appear to be missing “home” at all – everything is new and exciting to explore!

Everyone here is very friendly too. We are a bit of an oddity with our “weird but cute” accents, and I’ve been asked several times “why Regina?”! But random strangers strike up conversations in the coffee shop, people say hello when they pass you in the street, and the humunga-cars stop to let you cross, even if you are no where near a pedestrian crossing sign. It is, at times, unnerving for British sensibilities. Least ways, it is not going to be too difficult to find friends here I think.

The only negatives so far have just been money-related. Food seems to cost several times more than it does at home, and I really resent it. Everything seems to come in bulk quantities, with no option but to buy Big and shop infrequently. I did not really need to buy 12 loo rolls at once, (for nearly $10!!!) and I really do not appreciate paying over $6.50 for a small block of pretty non-interesting cheese!! Food prices were a bit of an unpleasant shock, it has to be said.

Taxes are driving me up the wall too – we’ve made plenty of visits to the “Dollar-and-twelves-cents-arama” store, where everything costs one dollar – plus tax. WHY cannot they just add in to the price they display? Why does a $9.99 coat for Miranda actually cost $10.41? And why do I have to spend $22 to get a $20 top up for my phone?!

Finally, (WOE is ME!) Beer is also pricey, buit worst of all, they are very, very strict about it. You cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets; instead we had to traipse up to an off license. I did this epic mission yesterday, spent just under $30 and pulled a muscle carting 6 beers in bottles and a bottle of wine all the way home. Even more annoyingly, a lot of bars wont let Miranda in – I suppose so we don’t try and feed her booze??? Daft, and anti-social!!  Bring back the UK’s badly planned, pathetic excuse for alcohol regulations!! please!

Otherwise, all is glorious. And now I am sooooooo tired, I can’t keep my eyes open. So, night night folks!

“Tweet away – LMO is approved!”

I am now at liberty to “blog my head off!!”

I do feel a little like my head has fallen off actually. That sensation is a welcome relief from the stress of the last few months where my head has felt like it was trying to curl in on itself and implode. I was contemplating trephination, but a positive Labour Market Opinion is possibly a less risky solution…

So yes, THE LMO IS APPROVED!!!

A mere FIFTEEN WEEKS AND FOUR DAYS after we applied for it… talk about backlog!!

Emma seems highly relieved too, can’t wait to meet up with them both again!

What this means in a practical terms is that we can now fly out, and get my work permit stamped at the port of entry, ie: Calgary airport. There are some advantages of the Commonwealth and being a UK national after all. If I were coming from anywhere else in Europe I’d be stuck waiting another few months for the work permits to be approved by the Canadian embassy at home! From then on, I am legally allowed to work (and pay taxes!) at the coffee shop in Regina.  It is employer-specific, so I have to stay at 13th Avenue for a year at least. Fine by me!! The best bit is though, as Carl is my spouse, he gets to come with me and automatically gets an Open work permit, so when he finds a job over there, he doesn’t have to go through this whole LMO process himself! Lucky sod.

We’re all official!! And today I booked the flights. (was intending to do it earlier but we had to see how long Carl could get off work… he’s coming out for just over 2 weeks this time, then unfortunately he has to come back, and carry on working until September when his redundancy comes through! Waa!!)

So I actually have a One Way Ticket!!!

I’ve never owned a one way flight ticket before. EEEP!!

I am sure there are plenty of jokesl to be made out of “I’ve got a ticket for Regina” or “single entry only”… I’ll await the blog comments from the usual suspects….

I am somewhere in between knicker-wettingly excited to gibbering-in-the-corner with nerves now.

Of course, we needed to celebrate. We cracked open an eleven year old bottle of wine that has been gathering dust in the corner of the kitchen. We bought it for under £5 from the Kwiksave supermarket behind our old house in Chester-le-Street in 2001. It’s Chilean cab sav and says it ages well, so we kept it “for a special occasion”. We could never decide on what occasion would warrent its opening (not the birth of our daughter, the opening of my coffee shop nor handing in my PhD thesis!) so it has sat there, rejected,ever since, and even moved house with us in 2004. Aging it definitely improved it – it is incredibly strong tasting now, almost smokey!! But its one of the last bottles we’ll be able to pick up for under a fiver in a supermarket – from now on, it’ll all have to come from a Liquor Store. Hmm!

We first started talking about moving to Canada more than eleven years ago, before we bought that bottle anyway, so I think it is very fitting that we glugged the stuff on the eve of finally doing it!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Here’s some pictures of us getting excited, in case you’d missed the general vibe of this post.

With the aforementioned Old Wine.
"Mother, you are embarrassing me!"
I missed Carl, but then he hates being in photos anyway! He is excited too. Just in a quieter way than me.

Mug shot

I wish I could say it’s all finally happening! Flights are going to get booked this weekend (we hope), and after various dramas, we sat up til 1.45am talking to Canadians on Skype the other night. As always, it isn’t quite working out in the way we’d planned or expected, but then, nothing ever does. But the wait is soooo nearly over, and it was an enormous relief to actually talk to Emma properly. It helped me to appreciate this is actually happening: via email seems so remote!

However, there is still a ridiculous amount of stuff to sort out at both ends, not least Miranda and our house. So, with the exception of the “light relief” in form of ghastly pictures below, this will be my last blog post for a while – just waaaay too much to worry about at the moment!!

Here’s the light relief: I’ve got to send ID photos off, “endorsed” by someone who ‘works in one of the listed occupations’ and has known me for two years. Right now, I cannot think of a single person who fits that description – in Darlington at least. We are all unemployed or perma-students. This is part of the reason why I want to leave!!

Mind you, who would actually want to endorse this?!

Bloody awful isn’t it?

Worried. More than Worried.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

I celebrated too soon. At the beginning of January, New Employers phoned Service Canada and were told that the decision on the LMO should arrive in the last week of February. This sounded excellent news. Unfortunately, it is now unlikely to happen.

Briefly, an LMO is a Labour Market Opinion which identifies a skills shortage in the local area. If there are no applications for a job from local people with the necessary skills, then the company is allowed to recruit from overseas. I’ve moaned enough on this blog already about the Epic 12-weeks-and-5-days it took for my first one, for Kave Haz, to arrive. This one, apparently, may take even longer.

Service Canada, who are the office in charge of processing LMOs, applications for temporary residency and work permits, never admit on their website how long it takes to process an LMO, with good reason. 13th Ave are now being told 14-16 weeks, and someone on the ex-pat forums I read has reported 21 weeks and counting!!! It’s utterly ridiculous.

Here’s a Canadian lawyer explaining the situation:

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/4012/processing-delays-in-the-age-of-increased-scrutiny.html?print=1&tmpl=component

This puts us all in impossible positions. New Employers offered me the job because they genuinely need a new staff member. With all these delays, they are having to cope without a key worker. Worse still, all the bureaucracy means that they are frantically faxing off every single irrelevant document they can to satisfy a random audit for Service Canada, on top of running the business and working full time.

Meanwhile, I just do not know what to do here. We are just keeping out heads above water financially but it was all done with the view that I would be over in Canada very soon and earning a salary. If that is not going to happen then we are stuck: there are no jobs here, which is why we want to emigrate anyway. I can’t go back to my cafe because Miranda would be climbing the walls in there nowadays, she needs more entertainment than “coming to work with Mummy” now. And Jo would kill me. I am apparently not eligible for any sort of help or support whatsoever from the benefits office. Even if I could find a job, I can’t work full time because I can’t afford childcare for Miri. I am therefore restricted to working evenings and weekends when Carl can look after her for me. And those sorts of jobs tend to be minimum wage – a fine toss up between the advantages of a minimal income vs the disadvantages of seeing even less of my husband and general exhaustion.

Another potential buyer  is coming round to view the house again tomorrow. If they do decide they want it, do we accept and risk having to move out of here before we can move to Canada?

After my truly gutting experiences with Kave Haz, I am totally and utterly paranoid about whether or not 13th Avenue will just give up on the LMO application, not hold the job open for me and find someone else to do it in the mean time. It is asking so much of them to wait for me, they’ve got a lot to deal with anyway, and for a small business, the wait is crippling. I can totally understand their frustrations – neither of us expected anything like this amount of hassle, and I wouldn’t blame them if they decided not to wait for me. However, they both seemed lovely, I do trust them, and they’ve never given me any reason not to, they always respond and update me, and a rational person would have no reason to believe they won’t wait for me and sort out this LMO. I am losing my rationality very quickly though.

But if they did cancel the application, that would just leave me hung out to dry, house up for sale, unemployed and with my business here already gone. And I don’t think I could cope with that AGAIN!

Very, very worried.

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.