To illustrate the economic and social grip of bad credit, you only need to apply for a job at a major pizza chain, something I did in my desperate days post-graduation from the supposed finest university in Canada (yes, U of T, if you're wondering).
My interview went very well, and they recognized that I would be a better manager than, say, a customer service representative. Just think, $30,000 in loans from the government got me here!
The young woman assessing me recommended a management position but explained that it entailed filling out forms A, B and C. One of these was a consent to perform a credit check.
Immediately, my university education - what professors called my ability to "question everything" - kicked in, but my potential employer, unimpressed, advised that future employment would be limited should I choose not to allow access to my private credit information. Reluctantly, I signed.
I got a call the next day advising me that the pizza company had "chosen to not move forward" with my application, as other applicants were more suited for the position. My interrogation of the process began.
What in particular was I missing? Did I lack dough knowledge? No one in the human resources department wanted to call me back until I screamed "Labour Board," and with that my phone rang.
According to the senior human resources manager, any incriminating credit information is predictive of future behaviour and risk. Any report that contains a bankruptcy, judgment against the individual or other score-lowering information equals "unemployable."
Bottom line? In order to work at this pizza company you need good credit. And having a humongous student loan and missing a payment means you automatically don't have it.
A growing proportion of Canadian companies are choosing to access the credit records of individuals as markers of one's employability, with no consequences or appeal. I can't imagine how your credit or mine is anyone's business unless the institution is making a credit decision.
Is it possible that the counter-argument would be that being employed is a form of credit? If that's the case, then I, as a taxpaying citizen, would like to review the credit of a company before I choose to accept a job. Would former Jetsgo employees not agree with me? Is that completely unreasonable?
Unfortunately, little interest has been paid to this matter. The Ontario Labour Relations Board advised me to hire a lawyer or contact the office of the federal Privacy Commissioner.
The employers' arguments are that they have the right to protect themselves; employers need to know whether a person has committed an illegal act. Wait a minute! Isn't that what police background checks are for?
Despite its excellent work in other areas, I fault the office of the Privacy Commissioner for not adding privacy violations in the workplace to its mandate.
I imagine over and over the individual who fell on hard times, or the woman whose husband left her with all to bear, or the highly educated yet debt-ridden (thanks, Ontario!) student seeking employment and denied a fair and decent chance because a credit check reveals that he or she has missed a couple of payments on a student loan. It's a tautological, vicious, classist predicament. Allowing employers to equate credit behaviour with employability is tantamount to profiling.
Despite repeated calls to my MP and to Legal Aid (good luck), little interest has been generated.
Hence, when I see the young man or woman sitting on Yonge Street asking for change, I no longer walk by thinking, "Get a job." He or she probably tried to. Need a job? You'd better have good credit.