Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

September 15, 2008 17:18 ET

Canadian Labour Congress: "Mr. Harper, You Forgot the Other Ninety Percent!" Says Barbara Byers

Conservative promise on EI not good enough to bring about equality

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 15, 2008) - The Canadian Labour Congress advocates a serious and comprehensive modernization of the Employment Insurance program that will address, among other problems, the fact that two-thirds of unemployed women cannot qualify for benefits.

"The Conservative promise to extend parental and maternity benefits to the self-employed, is a belated acknowledgement that EI discriminates against working women," explains Barbara Byers, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress. "However, the promise is too narrow focussed and fraught with the danger of creating new discrimination and of opening the door to abuse."

Moreover, Byers describes as mischievous and misleading the Conservative announcement's assertion of an endorsement of this promise by the Canadian Labour Congress. "As it stands, this Conservative plan does not reflect what the labour movement has been advocating on behalf of working women."

The Conservative media announcement cites a CLC publication in support of the proposed plan.

"This plan, in fact, does nothing to equalize access to EI regular benefits for women, or to improve regular benefits for women which should be the main priorities."

"We support inclusion of self-employed workers for maternity and parental leave on the Quebec model, but Harper's plan is very different."

In Quebec, all self-employed workers must pay EI premiums to cover the additional cost of maternity and parental leaves for self-employed workers. By contrast, under the Harper plan, self-employed workers would qualify so long as they start paying premiums just six months in advance of a leave.

"We support benefits for the self-employed, but we do not support a big subsidy for the self-employed paid for by other workers who pay premiums but never qualify," explains Byers.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site:

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