05/24/2012 07:59 EDT | Updated 07/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Islanders worried over EI changes

Changes to the Employment Insurance program regarding what is suitable work for people on unemployment has Islanders in many industries, worried.

Premier Robert Ghiz said the one-size-fits-all changes to the system don't work for P.E.I., where many of the jobs are seasonal.

"On Prince Edward Island we are very fortunate that our three largest industries are still agriculture, fisheries and tourism – all industries that are seasonal in nature," Ghiz said.

"We are different than downtown Toronto and we are different than downtown Calgary."

Minister of National Revenue Gail Shea said people will have to start looking for jobs within their own region.

"People will not be required to leave where they live if they're on EI," Shea said, "they will be required to be looking for jobs within their own region."

Fishermen concerned

Mike McGeoghegan, President of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, said 50 per cent of fishermen on the Island claim EI and he said they should have been consulted.

"They should have come and talked to us and had small meetings with the fishing communities to find out their concerns and what we're dealing with," he said.

"You're only giving us six weeks of unemployment and then we have to find a job."

"That's going to be interesting here on Prince Edward Island," McGeoghegan said, "The jobs are not here. Plus we're working. We have jobs to deal with. We're filling gear. We're painting buoys, repairing the boat – in order to get ready for next season."

Finding jobs in a specific field more difficult

Aimee Power, 26, said she is worried she will have to take a job outside of her field.

She said she has been working as a casual employee for the federal government since she was 20-years-old, waiting for a full-time position to come up.

Powers said she combs the internet, attends training programs, and cold calls potential employers.

"I feel that I try really hard to find work," Power said, "I feel that I’m hustling all the time."

Powers said she will soon have to claim EI for the third time in five years.

That puts her in one of three new EI claimant categories announced today, categorizing her as a "frequent" EI user.

Under the reform Powers will be forced to take any job that she's qualified for after she's collected EI for six weeks, as long as it pays 70 per cent or more of her previous pay.

Powers said she feels as though taking a job outside of her field just wastes her time.

"Finding a job actually is a full time job," she said, "I know a lot of people don't know that but it takes a lot of time to find something."

Power said she is considering moving off the Island to find work in her field since she is having so much trouble finding work here.

She said the option of "moving to Alberta or west is very tempting."