Freeing the Wage Slaves

Every summer we take on a few university students here at the office. It’s a boring summer job, but it pays a lot better than most summer jobs students can get. One guy has come back every summer throughout his entire university career.

His passion is sports and he took a degree program in some sort of sports psychology thing. He plays a lot of sports and had volunteered his sports psychology services to a lot of athletes over the years. He graduated this spring, with his master’s.

And now ….. he’s being bridged in as a permanent federal public servant in our unit.

“Are you crazy?” I asked him. “What happened to your passion? All that work you put into the sports psychology thing? Your dream job of helping athletes achieve their maximum potential?”

“Ya,” he said sheepishly. “I talked to my parents (who are both public servants) and decided that it would be too difficult to find a job in my field.

I’m very disappointed. He was such a bright lad. So full of life. Such a brilliant future ahead of him. So much potential. And now…..pfft!

XUP Jr. has never had the slightest interest in the federal public service — or in any kind of office job. I’m glad. She wants to be an entrepreneur; be her own boss. I’m thrilled. Probably that makes me an irresponsible parent for not at least trying to guide my child into a safe, secure career choice. I don’t know.

Self-employment is very risky and there’s no pension or security of any kind.. But I think the time to take risks is when you’re young. And if she starts now to sock away a bit of her income every month, she’ll have a tidy sum when she gets older.

Anyway, I think the whole environment of the public service and all those other so-called secure workplaces is going to change drastically over the next 10 to 20 years. It’s just not sustainable with an ever-aging population.

This year, the government took away our severance pay this year and the union let them. This will mean big savings in the long run. I think our pensions are next. They’ll start chipping away at the pensions – increase employee contributions, increase years-of-service eligibility. At the same time, the public service will continue to be reduced until there are only a few administrators left in each department and all the work will be done by independent contractors.

And I think a lot of other businesses will have to follow suit. Keeping employees on payroll, contributing to their benefits and paying them a pension after they retire is really expensive.  Not to mention all the headaches associated with a stable of full-time, permanent employees.

So, it seems to me that being self-employed is the way to go. And, as more and more of the population becomes self-employed, more organizations will have to spring up to afford group medical and dental benefits to the self-employed – maybe even group pension schemes and income insurance. Who knows?

I’ve known several people who were made redundant from their safe, secure jobs.  When they weren’t able to find another job, they ended up creating their own jobs in order to earn a living. Now they all say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them.

So, I think if I was a young person today just starting out, I’d risk it, wouldn’t you?

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Sick-Day People

One of the perks of working for the federal public service is our cumulative sick leave benefits. We get 15 days of sick leave per year. We also get 5 family-related days per year (not cumulative) to stay home and take care of sick family members.

Statistics Canada tells us that federal public servants take an average of 16.2 of these days off every year – 12.3 in personal sick days and 3.8 in family related sick days.

So, the average public servant takes most of the sick leave they’re entitled to every year. Some even use up all their sick leave every year. Either public servants are a very sickly bunch or maybe, just maybe, they’re abusing this benefit a little bit. I know some who think they’re “sticking it to the man” by taking all their leave the instant it accrues.

Other people, like me, just save up our sick leave. I have around 8 months of sick leave banked. And no, I’m not one of those freaks who drag themselves into the office boasting about how they have fever, chills, violent diarreah and are throwing up every 10 minutes.  If I’m sick, I  stay home.  I don’t like it when people are sneezing and coughing all over the office, so I imagine others wouldn’t like it if I did it.

And, maybe once a year I might even take a day or two when I’m not exactly sick, but do feel the need for a rest.

But I  make sure I do it at a time when it won’t cause too much inconvenience to my co-workers.

Some people, on the other hand, deliberately arrange their sick days for when something big is due or when things are particularly busy at the office.

I don’t like those people.

There’s a guy where I work who does this. Whenever the going gets tough, he gets going. A few weeks ago, we were already down a few people because of vacations and training and stuff and he called in sick for the week. He sent an email on Monday and Tuesday saying he was sick and on Wednesday he sent an email saying he was going to be sick for the rest of the week. I  heard nothing further from him.  

 That left me to run the entire unit. Alone. For a week.

 It would have been really difficult to do with just two people. With just me, it was almost impossible. You’ll recall that I’m actually brand-spanking new in this job, right?

It was a completely insane week.  I only survived because of my astonishing fortitude, innate cleverness and by going for extra long runs every day.

And then.

And then he comes back the next week raving about the cool trips he took to Toronto and to his cottage while he was “off”. He even brought photos to show us!

A lesser person than I would have taken the electric stapler to his testicles, but I just gave him a withering look and said, “Not cool, dude.”

I guess these people think we all have the same don’t-give-a-shit attitude as they do and will just leave the work undone or fall behind in deadlines. I don’t think it actually occurs to them that we’re doing their work for them. Or maybe it does and they don’t care.

However, I’m confident that this sick-day abuse is going to come back to haunt them. If something ever happens – an accident, a serious illness, surgery – they’re going to need a lot of time off and then they’ll have to take it unpaid.

Also, absenteeism is looked at pretty hard as part of the reference check when you’re applying for new positions or promotions or deployments.

So, yuk it up ya’ll.