A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Friday, February 13, 2009

E.I.C.F. (unEmployment Insurance? Cluster F…..)

Like many others, members of my family are out of work, one even has the “good fortune” the be eligible (so far as we know) for assistance through the EI system. After waiting now 16 weeks from the date of the EI application (on line) we have seen no sign of any payment. Then I saw this from Scott Murray, his CV says “ Professional Writer” so I will let him take it from here……

Well, about an hour ago, I finally got through to a Service Canada calling queue, and only waited a couple of minutes before speaking with an agent. (Recall that before today, their 1-800 number's outgoing message had been telling me they were too busy to handle my call, and I should try later.)I found the maze of back & forth using their touch-tone response system was not very productive for my purposes. "All questions must be answered and no response may be entered until the full question is asked. Press 9 for 'no' and 1 for 'yes'. Press * to hear the question again..."

But the woman I finally spoke to was fantastic, helpful and on-the-ball. She knew about the feature that restricts applicants from going back in and changing the End Date of their employment (or anything else for that matter), and was the first to mention the following bit of information, which I found to be pretty crucial to the whole process:I have to personally visit my local Service Canada Centre, Record of Employment in hand, during business hours in order to get the ball rolling. And here I had assumed (because there is nothing on their website saying as such, nor in the letter they mailed to me) that I could enter the information online, thus saving a federal employee from carrying out this task manually.

Cut to Scotts previous post……

Being a hip, online type of guy, I decided to start by setting up an account and application on the Service Canada website ……..Before long, I found the form and started filling it out………. Well, ITIL best practices for online service delivery demand an email notification and Access Management in the form of a username and password - the standard sort of thing Yahoo or Google or most utilities and online banking use for security, validation and service customization/quality of service. Nothing like that over at Service Canada. As far as I can tell, they have their own proprietary practices, and I'm sorry, but they ain't the best……….

Yeah, Scott and every government department seems to have a different “system”…….
Back to Scott…..

I did get a form letter in my (snail-) mailbox the following week, with an "IMPORTANT PERSONAL ACCESS CODE" (four digits) but no specific link on their website to actually, you know, enter my Access Code on, and, you know, actually access my application or anything.They did include a 1-800 number, good during business hours and evenings. This proved to be useful after I was unable to navigate on their site back to my application, nor to any login button or place I could enter my spiffy four-digit "Access Code".However, all three times I have tried to use the 1-800 number, I received a message telling me all their lines were busy and informing me to try again later. I wasn't even given an option to wait in a queue for the next available agent. Yikes.

My turn now………..

Firstly, indeed that letter with fancy access code does not direct one to the on-line by weekly report web page, it just briefly mentions in passing servicecanada.gc.ca , digging down through the mess to find the right place to report in can be a challenge, I got lucky when googling for the EI information first off and saw it come up, visited and saved the link. If I could have found it again without help is something I will never know!

Now back to the “help” line and what we are told or more specifically NOT told…….

Upon failing to get any joy on the 800 number (more on that in a bit) we tried calling the local EI office number and were treated to 5 or more minutes of reciting all the 800 numbers that we were unable to get any human response from followed by the message that no one at the local office could help us then “click” . No humans there either I guess.

Going back to the 800 number that Scott has detailed above it is worth noting that in the preamble to the on line application, which one is asked to read and sign off on, it is stated “you may also call the Telephone Information Service at 1 800 206 7281 and select Option 1 to hear details of your payment” .

That may well be true but there are two things that are a bit of a problem here. 1) after 16weeks we still get the message “we have received your claim and are working on it”, NO “you must attend your local office before your claim can start” and 2) the most frustrating bit is that once again you must wait though several minuets of BS before it will accept that Option 1, one would think from reading the above that an earlier response would be accepted!

There is also some mention of accessing further information on line by applying for an “epass”, this can get you into not only EI info but your pension, child allowance and the like info. Trouble is that is does not seem to “like” my computer or it would seem Scotts.
The typical response when we try is …….
At this time, epass Canada does not officially support your browser, your Java Virtual Machine (JVM) or your operating system. However, you may still be able to access epass Enabled Services by clicking Continue below.”

Hmmmm, good luck with that…….
Strange that we have no trouble getting to on-line bank accounts and other secure sites….

To add to this whole CF we should note that as Scott has mentioned after filing an on line application we get a letter in the mail saying “we are working on your claim a decision will be made soon” again no indication that any other action is required. In fact if we read the confirmation page after our electronic application is filed it says “”If your are entitled to receive benefits, your payment will be issued usually within 28 days from the date of filing your claim”. Nothing here about attending the local office?

Now who is lying, the dickheads who designed the on line system or the nice lady that Scott actually got to speak to. Ya pays yer money and takes yer choice but yer sure as hell aint gona get yer money!

More on this to come after a visit to the local EI office, hope the queue there is shorter that the one on the phone lines!!

1 comment:

Scott in Montreal said...

Well Rural, it seems like you've had a pretty tough go of it yourself, and you have my deepest sympathies.

I did go down to my local EI office, and I can tell you it was staffed with courteous, bilingual people and I was only there about 20 minutes altogether. The reason for the visit was simply to produce the RoE (Record of Employment), and since I'd already entered the other info online, they stamped my RoE with the date it was received, then offered to give me a photocopy - which I gladly took since it was the only type of receipt available.

They mentioned the importance of going online or calling in with an update bi-weekly, and how by missing just one, my benefits would be cut-off. So this process begins immediately, and that's the part you have to go through the "Epass" login to do.

They also told me not to worry about the misinformation I had to enter in order to put in the original application (Termination Date of my former job). I wouldn't be able to correct it myself, and someone in Service Canada would see the true date on my RoE and make the necessary correction.

In retrospect, I notice the webpage for my local office has a fax number listed, so I wonder if making the trip in person was in fact obligatory. Perhaps faxing in the RoE would suffice, but I feel better having a copy that shows a stamp confirming they got it.

I just want to say once again how professional and empathetic the two staff members were (and the woman from the phone centre too). It was truly heartening to be made to feel like a human being, and the understanding they showed reminded me of the sort of feeling you get when you're in the hospital and scared and in pain and - by some stroke of luck - you just happen to get that sympathetic nurse who knows exactly what the term "caregiver" is all about. In short, I left feeling like I knew what I had to do, and the visit was well worthwhile.

Oh, and this was toward the end of the day on a Friday, during what must be the busiest time they have ever seen. Well done, Service Canada employees. I salute you. Now can somebody please tell me why the website is such a terrible mess?