Response to 'Who’s hit hardest by the recession: young workers or the old?'

Rachel Mendelson’s article ‘Who’s hit hardest by the recession: young workers or the old?’ misrepresented my position on the reason for work shortages among Teachers on Call, and, implicitly, on the rights of retired workers. As president of the Burnaby Teachers’ Association I represent the interests of all of our members. This includes retirees working as TOCs.

I found Ms. Mendelson’s article contained shades of a completely different question from the issue of work shortages: ‘Who has the most right to work: young workers or the old?’. In our school district in Burnaby, retired teachers have always had access to the Teacher on Call list. The work shortage that began for Teachers on Call in 2008 has primarily been attributed to a reduced number of calls, not the presence of retirees on the list. Placing blame on the 17 retirees who were added during the 2008-09 year, to our list of almost 400 Teachers on Call, raises some serious questions.

First, is the term ‘double dipping’, with all its pejorative connotations, a viable or valid critique of what retired workers are doing? What are heirs to large sums of money doing when they work? Why may they have income and work, while pensioners are scorned for doing the same? Why did retirees become the target during the shortage of work, when they have always made up a similar proportion of the Teacher on Call workforce? What do the questions about working pensioners really mean? As pensions dwindle, and more and more retirees are having to work, will they face discrimination?

Many of our working retirees are women who worked part-time while raising children, or people who could not find work during recessions, and started working later. While the question of who is hit hardest by the recession may have some interest, undertones of ‘who has the greatest right to work’ should cause concern for anyone who hasn’t saved quite enough for retirement.

Marianne Neill
President, Burnaby Teachers’ Association

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