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

Greater Victoria thrift shop quietly closes two locations indefinitely

Society of St. Vincent de Paul shut down Sooke and Central Saanich storefronts

Sooke councillor pitches another way to improve transit

Coun. Jeff Bateman wants free passes for youth on local routes

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Greater Victoria

Thunderstorm may produce strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain, warns Environment Canada

Sooke couple that owned Sooke Harbour House given $4 million after lengthy court case

B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Frederique and Sinclair Philip

Local MP Elizabeth May likes aspects of throne speech, but questions execution

According to May nobody is as ‘reckless’ as BC’s John Horgan in dismissing snap election

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Most Read