Friday, November 5

TORONTO – “The federal government must do more to support unemployed workers struggling to survive Canada’s ongoing jobless recovery,” says Winnie Ng, co-chair of the Good Jobs for All Coalition.

Ng was commenting on Statistics Canada’s release today of the October 2010 Labour Force Survey.  Nationally, unemployment remained virtually the same at 7.9%, down 0.1% from September 2010, but still above its pre-recession level of 6.2%.  Toronto’s unemployment rate remains at 9.2% – unchanged from September 2010.

“Today’s numbers are a harsh reminder that the government isn’t doing enough to help the thousands of unemployed workers and families who are coping with the stress of job loss and the challenge of staying afloat in the face of bills and rising expenses, like winter heating bills,” says Winnie Ng. “Where’s the relief?”

“The federal government must provide support to workers who have paid into a program whose sole purpose is to help families pull through tough times like these,” says John Cartwright, president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council.   “We have a $57 billion EI surplus, but the Harper government is keeping Toronto’s unemployed out in the cold.”

Despite the sustained high unemployment rate, people who live in Canada’s most populous urban centres, including Toronto, are being shut out from the five week EI extension, announced by the federal government on October 12.

Employment insurance benefits are becoming harder for Canadians and Torontonians to access.  Statistics Canada reported that only 45.0% of unemployed Canadians were receiving EI benefits in July. That is down from 50.3% a year earlier.

The current EI system provides only half the coverage for Torontonians than it did in Canada’s last recession – because fewer workers qualify, benefit weeks have been reduced, and it’s taking longer for workers to secure another job.  In 1990, 59% of unemployed workers in the Greater Toronto Area received EI.  In 2008 only 23% of workers in this region were receiving EI.

The Good Jobs for All Coalition is calling for the federal government to fix Employment Insurance by:
·         reducing the minimum EI qualifying hours to 360 in all regions of Canada;
·         increasing the number of benefit weeks in all regions;
·         increasing the weekly benefit rate to 60% of previous earnings; and
·         making permanent temporary EI pilot projects (“Best 14 Weeks” and “40% Allowable Earnings” and “EI Training Benefits”).

For interviews contact:
Jessica Bell, jbell@labourcouncil.ca, 416 937 0076