Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

February 24, 2005 15:42 ET

"Shockingly inadequate"

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 24, 2005) - The government accomplished two things when it announced "enhancements" (not changes, reforms or improvements) to its faltering Employment Insurance program today. It finally confessed that real problems with its qualifying rules are preventing too many working people from receiving benefits when needed. And it exposed a fundamental misunderstanding of what those problems are.

"Like yesterday's budget announcement, this government continues to take more away from working people than it gives back," says Canadian Labour Congress executive vice-president Barbara Byers.

"This program has racked up over $46-billion in surplus because the rules block so many workers - about two-thirds of the unemployed - from accessing their benefits. Today's announcement puts less than 1% of that money back into benefits while completely failing to deal with the program's discrimination against women and our most recent citizens," she says.

Putting today's "enhancement" in perspective, Byers points to the 70-hour reduction in qualifying hours. First of all, it is a temporary measure - a pilot project - rather than a change people can count on. Second, this temporary measure will make a difference for 16,000 people, which is less than 2% of the estimated one million unemployed Canadians who are denied EI benefits today.

Economic analysis by the Canadian Labour Congress has shown that only 38% of unemployed workers manage to receive benefits under current EI program rules. Working women and recent citizens do even worse because the rules make it especially difficult for people in part-time and precarious jobs to qualify for benefits.

Working people and their unions have long advocated progressive reforms to the EI program to make it more responsive to the reality of today's workplace. These reforms were endorsed and recommended to Parliament only last week by a special committee of MPs from all political parties. They include setting the number of hours needed to qualify for benefits at a universal 360, everywhere in Canada, calculating benefits based on the best 12 weeks of earnings over the previous year, and setting those benefits at 60% of those earnings with a benefit period of up to 50 weeks.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 137 district labour councils. Web site: /For further information: Jeff Atkinson, 613-526-7425 or 613-863-1413/ IN: ECONOMY, FINANCE, LABOUR, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Jean Wolff, Director of Communications Department, Canadian Labour Congress
    Primary Phone: 613-526-7431
    Secondary Phone: 613-878-6040