‘Maybe I should get a job at the non-government liquor store,’ I said to Camp who was comfortably reclining, checking his ever-present stupid phone for signs of life and beyond.
‘What gives you that idea?’
‘They offer $ 21 an hour with benefits. Training on the job. Indoors, discounts on the products, meet interesting people all day long, learn about wine and spirits, get out of the house.’
‘You could volunteer at the book store. Same thing just without the pay check and samples, since I can’t afford to pay anybody these days.’
‘I hear volunteering for seniors is the new trend. Saves businesses from going under. I see a lot of grey hairs behind the counters these days. It’s a strange economy that relies on free labour.’
‘It’s called a ‘gig-economy’, Camp explained. ‘We’ve moved from permanent unionized jobs with security and benefits to part time jobs making former employees into contractors. No job security, no benefits, no employment insurance, no severance. As if that isn’t bad enough, now people move from gig to gig, like troubadours and entertainers.’
‘Even better: Sponsor two or three Mexicans, pay them minimum wage and have them cook in your restaurant for 10 hours a day. Only breakfast and lunches, no alcohol. Open at 7am, close at 3pm. Staff starts at 6am, gets off after cleanup at 4pm. That’s the situation my soccer buddies from Mexico find themselves in. They have no choice since they can’t change employers until they have a better status here in Canada.’
‘It’s called modern slavery or serfdom,’ Camp said.
‘Why did the pandemic wipe out so many menial jobs?’ I asked.
‘Several reasons, I think. Jobs in the restaurant industry were tenuous at best, reliant on tips and a steady flow of customers. No customers, no tips and minimum wage is not a living option. Many of the young industry workers moved back in with their parents, enrolled in college and university courses, collected government subsidies and changed jobs. Also, rentals are scarce and the cost prohibitive and unmanageable on low wage jobs. Right now, there are plenty of apartment and condo vacancies in the big city, and many are flocking back into urban areas. Kind of a reversal from a year ago when everybody fled the cities for cottage country.’
‘All of that points towards higher wages for service jobs, which will drive costs and inflation up. Also, trades people like electricians, plumbers and cabinet makers are a rare breed these days’.
‘A result from a lack of proper apprenticeship opportunities and specialized skills training. Trades and manual skills are not coveted jobs. Data specialists or realtors. E-commerce and management jobs are popular since they work from home. Health care opportunities and construction work are also popular. Nobody wants to collect garbage, drive delivery trucks, work in food processing or for that matter be a server or a line cook.’
When Vicky dropped off our second pint, I asked her about her work situation.
‘We are short staffed, both in the kitchen and the front, and I’m about to go part time since I’m starting school next week. Maybe one of you two could take a few shifts.’
‘It will come to that,’ Camp nodded. ‘Maybe a self-serve option would be a solution.’
‘I don’t think so,’ Vicky said. ‘Self-serve beer is just a crazy dream boys.’