The paperwork as the Davidsons received it. (Submitted photo)

Former mill worker unhappy with B.C. forestry retirement bridging rules following imprecise language

‘We don’t know how we’re going to make it’

Sandy Davidson, a South Cariboo resident, is asking former forestry workers using the Bridging to Retirement Program to write letters to Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett after the program has forbidden her husband and others to be an employee of any kind.

Davidson’s husband, Rob, was a mill worker at West Fraser’s Chasm mill until it closed down. Based on the government’s own online information page in October, 2019 to receive bridge funding, employees would have to agree to “not return to work in B.C.’s forestry sector for a period of at least eighteen (18) months.” However, when the final paperwork came in, that had changed. Looking at the webpage now, it says “agree not to return to work in the B.C. forestry sector or in any other work as an employee for 18 months unless it is working for your own business.”

Davidson says they’d been working under the assumption that he would have been able to take a lower-paying, probably part-time job, whether that was at a gas station or grocery store, while leaving any higher paying forestry jobs for younger workers.

According to the Ministry of Labour, they clarified the language on the website to reduce confusion and make a clear distinction between the current program and what they may remember from the 2008 program. They further add that while the website’s information was initially imprecise, the official bridging applications form reflected the correct information.

“I’m thankful for the money we were given, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to cause trouble but how is someone supposed to survive on $40,000 for 18 months when you have a mortgage to pay? Because that’s what we ended up with and others are going to get less,” says Davidson. “All these people we know saw that it said ‘cannot be an employee in the forest sector’ and it got changed to ‘cannot be an employee of any kind.’”

Davidson is looking to get it changed back to be specific to the forest sector, which she says they understand. The only way to make money now is cash under the table, which isn’t right, or you become a contractor of some sort, says Davidson.

“Well, some of these guys are like 58, 60. What are they going to become a contractor of? Especially in a town where there’s all of these people out of work. They wanted to become like a parttime employee … to tie them over with the bridge funds until they could access their pension and they stepped aside for younger families.”

They didn’t transfer or use their seniority, she says.

“He’s sort of a nervous wreck because he thought he could get a parttime job. He already interviewed for jobs and was offered a couple of jobs but had to wait for this bridge [funding] to, you know, fall into place or whatever was going to happen.”

The other thing they don’t understand, Davison notes, is that despite paying into both Employment Insurance Benefits (EI) and severancefor years, and in some cases decades, they won’t be able to get EI because of severance.

“Now he can’t even be an employee of any kind… You need to supplement that bridge. And, the EI funds are separate from severance. Why can’t he get EI funds?” she says. “Now they’re handcuffed completely. We don’t know how we’re going to make it.”

Davidson is asking anyone who is affected to send letters to Barnett.

“We’re just trying to get that changed back to what it was originally intended for.”

Barnett says she would like to see the whole process stopped.

“How you can tell a person that if they take this funding that they can’t go to work for 18 months. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I would also like to see the numbers,” she says. “I heard numbers from the Minister on Thursday how many had applied but I don’t know how many are being granted,” she says. “To me, it’s quite a mess.”

When Barnett brought it up in question period, Minister Harry Bains noted they’d had 810 applications with 248 having benefited from the pension bridging plan.

“Since we launched the 2019 Bridging to Retirement Program, the eligibility has remained the same throughout,” Baines said in an email to the 100 Mile Free Press.

The program is meant to create a bridge for older workers to retirement, according to Baines, and is not meant to take the place of severance pay negotiated between workers and employers.

“There’s good reason we did this, too; by retiring, you’re creating a job vacancy that allows room for others starting out their careers or mid-career to remain employed. If you retire early with funds to help bridge you to retirement, then turn around and take another job, even in another sector, it’s one less job for someone else in the community who isn’t near retirement or didn’t receive the public support to retire.”


newsroom@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

forestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The rules for the Retirement Bridging Program as posted on the government’s own website in October 2019. (Submitted photo)

Just Posted

Nanwakolas charity golf event raises more than $40K for Indigenous NIC students

Funds were raised during 2019 event at Storey Creek Golf Club

North Island College launches virtual orientation

New and returning North Island College students are being welcomed to the… Continue reading

Tidemark Theatre gets ready to roll out summer camp

The summer theatre camp will be held from August 17-28 and participants can opt for on-site or virtual modules

Campbell River RCMP looking for those responsible for ‘hate speech’ graffiti

Incident took place in Nunn’s Creek Park over August long weekend

Petition opposed to supportive housing unit on Dogwood circulating

UPDATE: City-owned property meets the needs of such a facility, including being within a community neighbourhood

Airlines dispute Dr. Henry’s claim they ‘very rarely’ give accurate COVID contact tracing info

Air Canada, WestJet say they provide names and contact information

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Most Read