Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Sad Truth About Fulltiming and Workamping

The road calls out to a lot of folks, kind of like the siren song of the mermaids did to mariners. Those of us that have answered the call soon find that the harsh face of reality hits you very hard and fast. Even supposedly well prepared folks find the costs eat into any savings you might have had. Those fortunate enough to have a retirement plan like social security or a IRA stand a better chance of survival. Then there are the working poor without supplemental income who have answered the call, faced reality, and continue to struggle to survive. Employers know they have a captive audience and take full advantage. For instance, they charge workers for site fees and keep your hours down to avoid paying benefits. Ironically, those minimal hours are what end up paying for your site. The best opportunities that I have found pay less than $1500 a month for a couple. Workamping sites tend to glamorize the lifestyle and are lean on the harsh truth of living on the road. How ironic it is that I rarely enjoy the travel part of living on wheels that I love so much. I envisioned getting to see the great United States, but got caught up in making a living wage.
You may wonder what got me rehashing over life on the road. While I remain optimistic, it would be foolhardy of me not to investigate life beyond the plum job of gate guarding that I find myself doing today. The sobering reality of falling oil prices is that cuts will affect all that are involved in the business. For gate guards it has manifested itself into a horrific winter for those hoping to find a gate. While there have been a few layoffs in the service sector, gate guards themselves have not been laid off, per se. They have however, not found many opportunities this winter. I am waiting for the ax to fall any day now on those that have been given a site to stay in whilst waiting for a gate. It has been a long standing tradition by gate guard companies to "put up" the gate guards they have on standby. I fear sheer economics will put and end to that tradition soon; their largesse just can't continue (some folks have set for weeks on end). Ironically, not only is there a huge divide between Workamping  and gate guarding wages (by more than half), the slowdown has cast more folks into the availability pool. The sheer amount of folks out there unfortunately allows the employer(s) to not only be more selective, but also pay inferior wages. It is a sad truth of workamping that someone will always take a position that most would not even consider. Even someone ignorant in economics can see that, if wages remain constant, a person can afford less and less. That's where workampers find themselves.

There are plenty of opportunities to make money travelling and working in this great country. Just remember that you have to pay for fuel and living expenses. You should also severely temper your expectations and have some sort of income stream, before embarking on the life of a workamper. As far as gate guarding goes; for the foreseeable future, it will suffer from the same malady that affects most workampers seeking winter work. The vast majority of workampers head south for the winter, making not only sites difficult to come by, but also, workamper opportunities to be very competitive. This year we suffered from the "perfect storm" in the oil patch-a glut of oil and way to many available candidates. I don't see it getting better anytime soon.

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