After 14 years with Nortel, Marie Lunney found herself trying to navigate the employment insurance system after being laid off in March.
She didn’t get a severance, and that shouldn’t be happening to workers, said Lunney. She wants to see the government step in.
At a meeting between community members, high-tech groups and laid-off Nortel employees yesterday, Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar agreed, but said “this is not just about the workers at Nortel.
“This is about high-tech and taxpayers,” he said.
“We need to get government involved in this issue,” said Dewar, who held the meeting to get ideas on how to better support workers and the industry, and to determine next steps for Ottawa and the country.
“Now is the time to ensure that we are retaining our knowledge base and assets,” he said. “We need to retain the assets that we grow.
“The actual value of the knowledge isn’t calculated,” he said, “and it needs to be.”
Research and development and innovation are crucial to Canada, said independent financial analyst Diane Urquhart.
“Nortel has a long history of R&D in Canada. We can’t let … the last 10 years affect Canada and prevent it from being an R&D leader. We can’t sustain a country on service workers. We need knowledge-based workers.”
When tech workers lose their jobs, they’re still capable of working, said Gary Davis, who does economic development and labour market planning. They’re skilled, smart people who just need to know what the next step is, he said.
Unfortunately, “there is no strategy to deal with technology,” he said.
“We can’t be standing on the sidelines twiddling our thumbs and hoping things will be all right,” Dewar said. “We have to protect our assets and (ensure) obligations made to people are fulfilled.”