|It was with that assurance that she applied
for and received the Employment Insurance supplement which
topped-up her maternity benefits. Under the top-up program,
the employee has to sign a contract guaranteeing that she
will return to work or the money has to be repaid.
On Aug. 14, the Woodbridge mother of three was suddenly
informed that her contract would not be renewed after all.
And one more thing.
Not only is she out of a job -- but she now owes them
$8,000. As she is no longer returning to work for the
government, she must pay back the money she has collected
since April in supplementary maternity benefits.
"I'm totally shocked," Mule said at a press conference
yesterday called by her Canada Employment and Immigration
Union outside the North York office where she used to work.
"The message I get is that it's not very smart to have a
What is truly amazing is that Service Canada pulled the
same stunt last year on another contract worker who had just
gone on maternity leave. Just before Christmas, Asheena
Rycman was terminated without warning despite rave reviews
for her work during almost three years in their Scarborough
After Rycman and her union went public with her story
last December, the bad publicity suddenly had the government
rethinking their stance. It didn't look good that the very
department that administers maternity benefits appeared to
be discriminating against new mothers.
"They miraculously found an empty job and gave her a
contract," says Alan Lennon, the union's regional
representative. "But I guess they're slow learners."
After her colleague's experience, Mule never imagined
Service Canada would treat another new mother the same way.
"Yet here we are," she says, cradling 6-month-old daughter,
And now Mule is left hoping for another miracle.
If she had worked three uninterrupted years for the
federal government -- the year she took off on maternity
leave for her second daughter does not count -- she would be
considered full time by now and her job would have been safe
But as a government contract worker, they have no legal
obligation to extend her contract. According to spokesman
Rebecca McTaggart, Service Canada's peak summer period has
come to an end and they no longer need the services of 81
contract workers in Ontario. Mule just happens to be one of
those 81 whose contracts were not extended.
The union argues otherwise. "Daisy is being penalized for
having exercised her legitimate and legal right to take
maternity leave," said national v-p Paul Soiero.
McTaggart insists that Mule's local manager "in no way"
would have assured her that there would be a job for her
when she returned from maternity leave.
Yet the mother would have hardly signed on for top-up
benefits if she hadn't felt confident that she was going
back to her civil service job.
Instead, she is now unemployed, $8,000 in debt and
terrified of how she will come up with the money.
"It's a huge burden," she says as her two older daughters
race around the TV cameras. "We have lots of household
expenses like any average family. When you have a second
income coming in, you budget based on that and you spend it
assuming all is going well."
What you don't assume, in the 21st century, is that your
job -- especially your government job -- is at risk for
daring to bring a child into the world.