Communication breakdown in EI protest case

Steve Sharratt
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Single mom protester Marlene Geirsdorf speaks to a reporter from the Toronto Star last Monday as her campaign against being cut off from her EI benefits continues in Montague.

MONTAGUE - It may be a case of phone tag, but the woman protesting against losing her EI benefits says she’s not that hard to find if Services Canada officials want to chat.

“I’ve tried to get in contact with them and left messages, so I’m not sure what they are saying,’’ said Marlene Giersdorf on Friday while manning her protest spot in front of the Services Canada building. “I can’t afford a phone so I use the number of a friend.”

Both National Revenue Minister Gail Shea and Alyson Queen, communications director for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, say efforts are being made to discuss the issue with the 30-year-old single mom, but to little avail.

Geirsdorf, who doesn’t have a car or access to public transportation, was advised two weeks ago she would be cut off her EI claim because she wouldn’t go to Charlottetown to work.

“No one will lose their EI benefits for the sole reason that they don’t own a car,’’ insisted Queen. “Nor will they be expected to buy a car or move. There have been multiple attempts to reach her.”

However, despite that clarification, there has been no settlement of the issue as Geirsdorf continues to protest. She has been advised that her “appeal” claim to have EI reinstated could be fast tracked.

Meanwhile, Geirsdorf insists she is protesting to alert other claimants in similar situations that the federal changes to EI are detrimental to those who are employed on a seasonal basis. She also says if a federal representative wants to talk to her she is standing just outside the building.

“While I am unable to speak directly about an individual’s circumstances, it is important that Ms. Geirsdorf works with Service Canada to bring resolution to this issue,’’ said Shea in a statement to The Guardian. “If there aren’t jobs in a particular area, EI will continue to be there.”

Last week, Queen said there were half a dozen jobs in Montague the woman could have applied for; however, Geirsdorf said they were all beyond her qualifications. Officials also say there is more to the EI case than meets the eye, but can’t discuss it.

Queen said if someone does not demonstrate they are actively looking for work, they risk losing benefits.

“I can’t comment on her reinstatement, but I encourage her to accept the help of Service Canada and learn of her options,” she said.

Organizations: Service Canada

Geographic location: MONTAGUE, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Islanderforever
    January 26, 2013 - 12:49

    Why is it that this young lady quit her job when she could have had her doctor put her on a stress leave? She would have then qualified for EI for 3 mos. While on stress leave you are not suppose to look for work as you are suppose to be taking care of your mental health, however it can be accomplished. Montegue has all sorts of fast food restaruants and a few grocery stores. I am curious to know if she applied to them? Some money is much better then no money. If she still could not make ends meet there is also income support for suplementation. This is getting rediculous. If she put as much time and effort in finding a job as she does protesting she would be employed. I am a single mother of 3 (one who is physically disabled) and I have been in a similar position. I did what was necessary to make ends meet, even if it ment taking a job I was over qualified for. EI only provides (i think) 50% of your wages. She would make more, or at the very least, the same amount with a minimum wage job. Own up and be self sufficient. By the way, the picture shows a cell phone. Why is service canada not able to get a hold of her on the cell phone?

  • No logic to this story
    January 21, 2013 - 20:14

    They are going to fast track her EI claim and she is outside playing phone tag? A gov rep dealing with her EI case would leave a detailed message with their name and their personal extension , plus she can go inside the Service Canada building and use the phone for free . Why make it about seasonal workers now? It has nothing to do with her case. She seems to be the only one complaining, there is no one else "picking".

  • Gerry
    January 21, 2013 - 14:56

    Enough is enough. It's beyond time that common sense should kick in by being mature and responsible. Now, open the Service Canada doors, walk in, sit down, and carry on an intelligent conversation with a rep. Time to cease with the melodramatic plight for sympathy.

  • TO WOW
    January 21, 2013 - 14:19

    WOW. There are two options to allow you not to be forced into taking jobs which you seem to feel are beneath you. One is called education ( that is where you go to school and further your knowledge) and the other is called Career Training (that is where you train for gainful employment). Without one of these two you will have no choice except take whatever is offered to you. if you prefer to not try either of these options then join the girl on her private stance to fight against getting a job and be supported by the taxpayers of this country. The third option seems to be the favourite choice here on PEI.

    • Not impressed
      January 22, 2013 - 11:45

      Dear Mr. or Mrs.Wow, I myself went back to school at the age of forty to gain more education and where did it get me on PEI.. having to leave my friends and family and drive across Canada to gain employment out West. I struggled for two years going to college on a fixed income and graduated only to be told that there isn't jobs in our field and there was suppose to be lots!!! So PLEASE don't put all of us in the same boat as being supported by the taxpayers...

  • Really
    January 21, 2013 - 13:55

    Just because you have enough hours does NOT qualify you for EI. Am I missing something quit you do NOT qualify for EI. If you have full time work... you do not quit untill you have obtained another full time job. So why are we still arguing this point.....Quit no money. And if she knows she has been called .... then walk inside and ask about it. Don't cave into this.....for once I'm agreeing with the government. You can't protest something when its your own fault.

  • Curious
    January 21, 2013 - 12:05

    Just curious how she can stand for hours in front of a MacDonald's, which is in front of the Service Canada building, without applying for a job inside. She obviously has transportation and babysitter for her protest. I have no idea what she receives per week on EI, but a pay cheque at minimum wage is better then no cheque at all. I have been on EI and used that time to find a new job, and yes I worked minimum wage to support my family. I also took advantage of the training EI provided to go back to school and get a trade.

  • gov worker
    January 21, 2013 - 11:54

    WOW. Seems like everyone commenting on this is following all the media. Well if you were youd know her son is in school so thats why she is able to protest.Yes that was in the media guess you missed that along with other things. How many times have all you missed a call or not answered a strange number thats out of province thats blocked? I highly doubt its someone from the local office calling. If she calls the number back it would be like trying to reach any gov worker. On hold for 25min and then get no wheres. All that would add up on cell phone bills and she has no money. Yes she could go in and get service canada to call but it would be the same game waiting 20min for them to reach someone and then wait another hour or more for them to call back. If they call back.

    • SAP
      January 21, 2013 - 13:42

      So, what you are saying is, if you have to spend 20 minutes or more on the phone, it's bet to not even bother? I suspect waiting indoors to talk to someone would be no more difficult than standing on the street.

    • rare common sense
      January 21, 2013 - 17:19

      The point is she is claiming since she does not have a car she cannot get to Charlottetown for work. the funniest part of this entire useless sotry is that she sure found a ride real quick into Ctown to protest.. and i imagine she doesn't walk back home to care for her child once school lets out... Oh yes.. and and let's not forget the fact she QUIT her job with zero backup. she was lucky to get the help she got. Now she ought to stop whining and join the real world. No wonder the rest of Canada laughs at us if this is the representation we get in the news...

  • Agree with quiet observer
    January 21, 2013 - 11:50

    Since Service Canada is not able by privacy issues to respond, why will Ms Giersdorf not answer some questions. How many times has she collected E.I., Was she hired to work a 60 hour week, how long was she at this job and how often has she changed/left previous jobs? If she truly has nothing to hide, it is time for her to step forward with the facts. Also, she is not a seasonal worker and should stick with her own issues.

    January 21, 2013 - 11:34

    There are a lot of people ready and willing to dismiss Ms. Giersdorf, who are basing their comments on their own personal feelings and circumstances. The only circumstances we know for sure are those that came through the media. This case could be put to rest if the media would allow Ms. Giersdorf to comment on the questions asked in the public domain. Yes, she quit a job, however it was with her boss's support. It was a sixty hour per week job, twenty hours more per week than full-time. What could be said is that this was her third full-time job - 1. single mother 2. living in poverty or fighting full-time for daily provision and 3. a full-time and a half-time again employment. She could not collect on an employment insurance policy if she had not first accumulated working hours to become eligible. She paid into the policy in the amount Service Canada required. Ms. Giersdorf was eligible, but the new EI policy rules had changed, one of which was the requirement to seek work an indefinite distance away. Few people understand what the rules are and without Service Canada explaining these directly to her, instead telling her to go seek community services (or "go on welfare" as was reported), she felt backed into a corner (some would call it "bullied"). Service Canada is operating well below the minimum requirement sorely needed by individuals and communities. Perhaps that service could take a hard look inward, as all social programs should, and HELP the person holistically, not judgmentally.

    January 21, 2013 - 11:22

    What's the problem? Grab your welfare and go home..put your feet up. You can't get the pogey when you quit. You get welfare. Done. Easy money. You have to do the same for both. NOTHING. And what does Gail Shae have to do with any of it????? Did she make her quit her job? Little confused. Or should Gail just throw her some cash like the rest of you are doing. This is crazy. PEI... Pogey Edward Island

  • Randy
    January 21, 2013 - 11:13

    For those of you that don't read / comprehend what the young lady said. She said that she is forced to use her friends phone and number to communicate with. She has contacted Services Canada and left messages with them , no doubt leaving her name and friends phone number on those messages.

    January 21, 2013 - 10:55

    it is very easy to pick out the EI users in these comments. Thay are the ones who think it is okay to quit a job and draw EI. They are also the ones who keep stating QUOTE It is our money UNQUOTE. You pay in 10 per cent of what you draw each and every year so if you are only taking your ten per cent that I agree if you are taking more then 10 per cent then you are taking what someone else has had deducted from thjEIr pay and also the pensions people draw that you are referring to are paid for by the people drawing their pensions. It is called full time employment.

    • SAP
      January 21, 2013 - 11:36

      Totally agree. If you are withdrawing money at 5-1 or better compared to what you put in, it is NOT YOUR MONEY! Do people realize that it is actually harder for workers in other provinces to get EI than it is on PEI? People who will never collect or can never collect are paying for this, it is THEIR MONEY, and they are upset. i guess you can't spell PEI without EI.

  • Quiet Observer
    January 21, 2013 - 10:52

    I would really like to see marlene give Service Canada full permission to release the full details of her case to the media. She has told it from her point of view - not give permission for Service Canada to tell it from their point of view.

  • bob from cardigan
    January 21, 2013 - 10:47

    Not passing judgement here, but whose phone is she using in the picture.

  • WOW
    January 21, 2013 - 10:36

    Wait till some of you get stuck working at any old job when you apply. Anyone can be out of work in an instant. Then will you be singing the praises of the PM? Probably not. If we bring by force people who take a job out of force, what kind of service should customers expect? Unhappy workers trickling down to unhappy customers? And some dictator employers who know that basically you are trapped into that job.

  • Bertie
    January 21, 2013 - 09:55

    It is good to see Conservative hacks like Garth Staples so worked up that this story line is continuing. That is a definite sign that this protest is working, along with the absolute about face the government now seems to be doing of course. But people be sure of one thing that the attacks on Marlene on this forum are coming from Liberals as much as they are from Conservatives. The Liberals did worse EI cuts when they were in power and they would do so again. For sure.

  • John
    January 21, 2013 - 08:39

    Everyone here is saying stop wasting her time protesting and look for a job...Well I think its obvious that she needs a job and I would assume potential employers are seeing this too,but are there any job offers yet?Face it,there are not enough jobs on this the smallest Province in Canada.

    • Townie
      January 21, 2013 - 10:31

      If I owned a company I wouldn't hire someone who has stated that they have used EI many times before because she didn't like her job/was stressed out. You know she is going to quit again. Why bother training her if she's just going to take off.

  • Jenn
    January 21, 2013 - 08:39

    Reading about Ms.Geirsdorf's case is really really frustrating! I am not a single mother, so I can't relate to her on that aspect. But I am a 30 year old ambitions woman who could not imagine depending upon EI for a living. What she should be asking from the government is support to go back to school so she can get those qualifications to get a decent job.

  • Hey Paula
    January 21, 2013 - 08:38

    The door swings both ways. Or maybe Marlene is too tired to open the door and walk in .... Why should service canada be outside looking for her? Let her go in she stated they are right behind her. This is getting very old now . Time for new news .Get a job your son and stay out of the cold.

  • She is not alone
    January 21, 2013 - 08:31

    This woman is not alone. Even though there are a lot of holier than thou types on this comments section. And the reality is starting to hit home. On the Magdellan Islands 33 per cent of the population where holding placards in front of the EI office. They realize that the changes to EI are going to force people to starve or join the thousands of other people in this region that are economic migrants. Harper is really doing a terrible job for this region and his MP's like Gail Shea just do as told!

    • SAP
      January 21, 2013 - 09:00

      Maybe it will not force them to starve, maybe it will force them to budget their money for the whole year, and maybe not buy new trucks every year when PEI dealers show up. A new F150 can buy a lot of food.

  • JD Campbell
    January 21, 2013 - 08:17

    Everyone on EI should apply to all federal jobs to protest the changes to EI. By creating more work for the government to check if EI claimants have applied for jobs, the point of the dislike of the recent changes may be heard. Apply for any federal job, even if you aren't qualified...there may be a job there anyway, like the MP's job:) It only takes 30 minutes to fill out the on-line application ( available at any internet access point - like Service Canada) and you can apply for your three jobs each week. You have fulfilled your end of the EI agreement as a claimant.

  • common sense
    January 21, 2013 - 08:14

    hmm.. i'm waiting for a very important phone call that directly impacts my life as a single mother. I think i'm gonna go stand outside a government in the middle of winter and make people feel sorry for me, even though i put myself in this position by quitting a perfectly good job due to 'stress'.. that every person in the world likely feels every day...and because i don't have enough sense to look for a carpool so i can get a job in Charlottetown. forget the fact that I can easily find a sitter for my kid(s) and transportation to Charlottetown so i can protest something i never should have gotten in the first place.... Ridiculous!!

    • caringgal
      January 21, 2013 - 10:07

      I agree with common sense.This lady was offered her job back with reduced hrs to accomodate her "stress". Wouldn't we all love to work stressfree. This story is getting too much press.

  • Jane Blow
    January 21, 2013 - 08:13

    She's not that hard to find but you have to call her friend's phone looking for her?? At some point it will be up to her to call them back as I'm sure she's not always standing right next to her friend. Also, Paula Dixion, I remember seeing on Compass a Service Canada worker did physically go out to talk to her. I truly feel concerned about what the new EI changes will mean for seasonal workers in PEI but from what I've heard in this case this woman had a year-round job that she quit. It makes no sense to me that she would be turned down because she wouldn't drive to Charlottetown since Service Canada and the Minister have repeated said that wouldn't be the case. They, perhaps unfortunately, cannot discuss the other side of this situation for privacy reasons but I fully suspect that there is another side.

  • Really
    January 21, 2013 - 07:22

    When my son quit his job.....he didn't get EI....because he quit. Stop putting this girl in the paper everyday. Let her spend as much time looking for a job as she does protesting losing her EI which she DIDN'T qualify for in the first place. Maybe you should be talking to who ever gave it to her in the first place and straighten that out. We are raising a whole generation of people who can't deal with any kind of has stress get over it and get on with living.

  • outraged
    January 21, 2013 - 06:41

    What a crock!! I for one am sick of someone who QUIT their job due to stress ( we're all stressed honey. it's called life ) getting special treatment just because they waste valuable time protesting the loss of something she never should have gotten in the first place. Here's a thought.. instead of wasting your days why don't you use your protest time to find a job? how about putting an ad in the paper for carpool to Ctown for a job? There are ways around your lack of transportation.

  • Tom Paine
    January 21, 2013 - 06:25

    Without any comment on the changes to the EI system (I don't know enough about them), or the situation this lady finds herself in - which is truly unfortunate - I would like to comment on something in the first story. That is, she quit her job. The reasons may have been understandable, but what system of employment insurance would someone who voluntarily left employment be eligible? And if she were, that speaks volumes to the need for reform (though most likely not the ones being implemented).

    • Jasr
      January 21, 2013 - 11:32

      Very limited, a wotker can quit if they are sexually harrassed, forced into unsafe practices, and a couple other extreme reasons.

  • paula dixon
    January 21, 2013 - 06:22

    Marlene made a good point , she is standing right outside the building, She is right there. All service Canada has to do is tell her to come in. That kind of leaves the officials with egg on their face for that one. If attemps are being made to contact her, just step outside their office! Do you ever notice that when officials are put up against the wall, their comments are there is more to this case but we can't discuss it. They never admit fault and always come up something else. it's classic gov tactics.

    • mbonova
      January 21, 2013 - 08:07

      Excuse me - there's an office building for a purpose. The "protestor" needs to go in the building and resolve her issue - hello!

  • still so cynical
    January 21, 2013 - 06:21

    Sounds like yet another case of a federal dept.- that of EI in this case-- being deliberately obtusive in order to bamboozle the public into thinking there is actually a valid reason for their ignorance, noncaring attitudes, and obvious misuse of public monies. One wonders what ever on earth we are paying this band of paperpushers for with our hard earned tax dollars; seems merely to look pretty and occupy a purposeless seat while administrating a totally worthless array of socalled government "services"- not to mention the scandalous waste money from the public's coffers!

  • jon
    January 21, 2013 - 05:59

    if your making less than 10-12 an hour thats not gainfully employed. Too many places give their employees enough to eat for the day and put enough gas in the car to get ack to work the next day. that's not gainfully employed. how about some sick days for low wage earners. instead of just top wage earners that we all work for. it definatley is a rich man's world.

    • Garth Staples
      January 21, 2013 - 07:59

      A person can't make less then 10$ an hour . It would be against the law. Working 60 hrs a week may also be against the law.? A claim was made in this form that there was Shuttle transportation to Charlottetown. Has anyone confirmed this ---especially the media who seem intent on riding this story ?

    • mej
      January 21, 2013 - 13:50

      I'll give credit where credit is due. Thats great for business', have you ever tried to get onto CRA's my account for individuals? Its like asking to infiltrate fort Knox. So much for red tape!!

  • Diesel Truck
    January 21, 2013 - 01:32

    I could make it from Montaque to Charlottetown in 10mins with my slip tanked Diesel Truck. Does anyone know how much money got raised to buy her a vehicle? I'm hoping it was enough for a big jacked up Diesel with all the options. Something real meaty if yah know what I mean. Perhaps a turbo onto her that would peel from Montaque to Town in record time. Maybe she could get a job delivering the paper or flyers. I bet she would make record time in a souped up Diesel Truck. If she got a slip tank big enough I bet she could go near 1.5 - 2 weeks without filling up again. That would be awesome. Get some "EI" stickers on the side of it, custom plate "Pogey Train". She could just drive it straight OW (Out West) and make $1000 off it a day. Then her wage on top of that. Pick up a welding job or something like that, maybe a pipe fitter, don't really matter much if you have a truck like that, you decide what yah wana do. Hi, yah I'm looking for a job... Geeez, that your truck out there? Yah u betcha. Oh, ok you just made drill push. Anyways, I wish her all the best, if the truck isn't a 2013 she should turn it down. No one deserves to be driving around in something that's junk. May the Diesel be with you all, Diesel Truck

  • Joe Blow
    January 21, 2013 - 01:00

    This is just more bullying by the Harper government!! I don't think people should rely on EI to support themselves...but these changes that Harper put in place just make it near impossible for people to follow the rules. The biggest problem I have about the whole issue is that EVERYBODY pays into the EI fund off every cheque and there is billions of dollars in the EI who cares if people draw from it??? Its our right to draw EI if need be....we all contribute. Its not like there isn't billions of dollars to spend from the fund. Every person in Canada could draw the maximum EI claim for the maximum length and it would hardly put a dent into the amount of money that is in the EI fund. I just think this is a silly thing to be fighting over. Why doesn't the Harper government concern themselves with things that actually matter to Canadians like healthcare and job creation ACROSS Canada, not just in Alberta where Harper caters to. This is just Harpers way of picking on the Maritimers that he doesn't giver a rats a$$ about!!!

  • You know what
    January 20, 2013 - 21:53

    I'm with Service Canada on this one....all she has to do is APPLY-she says she doesnt have qualifications? Apply Mrs Giersdorf! And let the employer decides whether you are capable or not-some people just want to use the system-I work a minimum wage job-not that I want to-but I do

  • What the....
    January 20, 2013 - 21:16

    Yeah revenue Canada should know that they can contact you on your friends phone....this story is getting old...we all have stress and dont like our go back to work

  • That Gail's a gem
    January 20, 2013 - 21:01

    Same old story of the bully blaming the victim and whining about never being understood. That Gail Shea sure is a gem. Now they intentionally throw a dark cloud over the single mom and without and facts. She can't be that hard to find she is standing all day outside the office. Standing in the cold! While the EI police sit inside with fat salaries and warm offices. A little truth telling by Ms. Shea is long over due!

    • outraged
      January 21, 2013 - 08:09

      yep that she is ( standing in the cold ) by HER choice. After she QUIT her job due to 'stress'. If she spent half as much time looking for a job and a carpool to take her to said job she wouldn't need to protest anything!! People really need to start taking responsibility for their own actions and lives and stop depending on others

  • Time to stop
    January 20, 2013 - 21:01

    This protest has taken ona life of it's thinks she is a media star...........they have been attempting to find her..... but she is making no effort to communicate with them.... but now has "taken " on the cause of others.....who will use her for strictly political gain.......... time to stop this fiasco.....

  • SW
    January 20, 2013 - 20:19

    Call Service Canada! Talk to one person. Then call right back and talk to another person. Same question. Different answer. I'm sure if you had the time to do this numerous times, you could write a book with different answers to that one same question! We've all paid into EI for years and we are as much entitled to IT as the public servants are to their pensions! We seasonal workers are not fortunate enough to have the backup buy-outs that the government workers have when their jobs are permanently terminated, or the stress leave, or paid vacation. Give the little people a break. Let us look as if we can survive on the EI benefits we receive until our jobs become available to us again next season!

  • EI Try to cover tracks
    January 20, 2013 - 20:15

    EI is trying to cover tracks and shift the blame on the woman while trying to blame the victim. Typical kind of sleaze one would expect. The woman is not hard to find.... she is in front of the building, for heavens sake.

    January 20, 2013 - 19:18

    Good for you, Marlene!! Too bad it took them so long to find you IN FRONT OF THE SERVICE CANADA OFFICE WAVING A PLACARD.

  • don
    January 20, 2013 - 18:23

    she can't afford a phone can pay for a cell? who is looking after her child while is out with her signs? something is missing in this story? and this stress is now the biggest thing going to get out of work. she says she had stress at work and away from work what is the reason for all her stress? has she gone to talk to a head doc?

  • How hard
    January 20, 2013 - 18:16

    Is it to pass a person something to eat> Kates Cafe.Or how hard is it to use a phone> On line support. Wouldn't take much qualifying for those two.