TORONTO – The Harper Government’s 2010 Federal Budget has utterly failed to fix Employment Insurance (EI) and help thousands of unemployed workers survive Canada’s ongoing economic crisis.
Despite a national unemployment rate of 8.3%, the Harper Government has merely tweaked the EI program by temporarily extended EI’s worker job sharing program from 52 to 78 weeks up until March 2011. The government’s job sharing program provides temporary income-support to workers eligible for EI benefits who are forced to work a reduced work week.
“We’ve been studying EI reform for months but this Budget proves that the Conservatives really have zero interest in helping unemployed workers, says Tam Goossen, co-Chair of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. “We need a massive stimulus package, not the crumbs the Conservatives have tossed us in this Budget. We are in an emergency here. Our country’s safety net is broken and needs to be repaired, but this Budget does nothing to help us.”
“While Harper’s been out suspending Parliament we’ve been dealing with his failure to fix EI,” says Mike Seaward who was one of 136 people who were laid off from Signature Aluminium in Richmond Hill, Ontario, over Christmas break. “I worked at Signature Aluminium for 39 years, and all that time I’ve paid into EI. The extension of the job sharing program does nothing more to help me pay my bills and get another job. I’m really struggling.”
Despite promising to freeze MP salaries, Harper will still earn about $315,462 in 2010. Harper earned about $52,000 during this latest suspension of Parliament, totalling $6067 a week. In contrast, an unemployed worker living in Toronto would get about $2881during this same period, which amounts to a meagre $339 a week.1
“The Conservatives’ 2010 Budget shows that Harper is not serious about the well being of unemployed Canadians,” says John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. “Those who lost their jobs near the beginning of this recession are running out of EI benefits, but they still can’t find work. For over 425,000 unemployed Ontarians who are still not getting EI because the rules are unfairly strict, fixing EI is about whether they can pay rent and feed their families. Fixing EI means more than just temporarily extending the job sharing program. What the budget has given us is a continuation of the corporate tax cuts.”
The Good Jobs for All Coalition is seeking the following changes to the EI system:
Decrease the number of hours a person needs to work a year to qualify for EI to 360 hours (it currently ranges from 360 to 910 hours) for all regions across the country, and decrease the number of hours needed to be worked to access EI again;
Increase benefit duration to at least 50 weeks in all regions;
Provide an additional year of “Special Extension” benefits if national unemployment exceeds 6.5% – paid from federal general revenues;
Increase benefit amounts to at least 60% of normal earnings (it is currently 55%), using workers’ 12 best weeks to calculate benefit amounts, and
Eliminate the 2 week mandatory waiting period.
For more information and interviews, please contact:
Jessica Bell, Communications/Campaigns, Toronto & York Region Labour Council, firstname.lastname@example.org, 416 937 0076 or
John Cartwright, President, Toronto & York Region Labour Council, 416-999-5663
Since October 2008, almost 50,000 full-time paid jobs have been lost across Canada. Unemployment is expected to reach 8.5% this year, and the real rate of unemployment – counting people who have been forced into part-time jobs who have given up looking for jobs – is over 12%.2
The current EI system provides only half the coverage for Torontonians than it did in Canada’s last recession – because fewer workers quality and benefit weeks have been reduced. In 1990, 59% of unemployed workers in the Greater Toronto Area received EI. In 2008, however, only 23% of workers in this region were receiving EI.3
The Good Jobs for All Coalition is an alliance of more than 40 community, labour and student groups representing people throughout the Greater Toronto Area. For more information on the Coalition and its’ members go to: http://goodjobsforall.ca/
1EI Benefits for Urban Centres (2006-07) in “Uninsured: Why EI is Failing Working Ontarians” Social Planning Toronto. Page 6. Online at: http://socialplanningtoronto.org/reports/uninsured-why-ei-is-failing-working-ontarians/
2 “Ottawa 2010: Budget Watch: Who Will Win Gold? Canadian Labor Congress Online at: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/publications/budget-watch
3 Percent of EI Beneficiaries to Unemployed Workers (B/U) – Toronto, 1990-2008 in “Uninsured: Why EI is Failing Working Ontarians” Social Planning Toronto. Page 5. Online at: http://socialplanningtoronto.org/reports/uninsured-why-ei-is-failing-working-ontarians/