Public Values

Service Canada closes PEI processing centre, blames workers for productivity dips

"Political cover" hides truth behind long EI wait times — union.

November 28, 2011: CEIU National Vice-President Donna MacDonald responded quickly and effectively to a letter to the editor by HRSDC Minister Finley. In her letter to Charlottetown's The Guardian, Finley attacks the productivity of CEIU members working in the EI system and mounts a feeble defense of the declining quality of service offered to the public. In her response, MacDonald defends her members and takes apart Finley's claims about the efficiency of an EI system that the Conservatives are deliberately understaffing.

"I saw red when I found the Minister's letter in the newspaper," said MacDonald "because our members work hard to process EI claims. They do their best but there are just not enough of them to give clients the service they need. If the Minister thinks she can bully us because PEI is small, she should think again."

  "The Minister's letter is a measure of the government's vulnerability on the EI file. The public is not getting the service it deserves and further cuts will make a failing system worse."

In her letter, the Minister wrote:

"Most interesting though is that in the month that we announced we will be overhauling and improving EI processing to better serve Canadians — before any changes were introduced — productivity and performance went from being on par with last year's performance at this time, to the worst in five years."

MacDonald's letter to The Guardian dealt with this attack head-on:

"She didn't tell you that the reason for the low production during that one week was probably because the announcement to which she referred was to close the Montague Processing Centre and had nothing whatsoever to do with improving and overhauling the EI processing system.

"My members were sent an e-mail at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon telling them the Centre was closing. Those who were not in the office at the time received the news by word of mouth or Facebook!

"She didn't tell you that the issue of the low stats for the one-week period were never addressed by team leaders or managers at the time. To have the minister address it three months after the fact, to attack her employees in so public a manner, is a total insult to hard-working individuals who give more to the clients they serve than she ever will."

As for the Minister's claims that the EI system is working well for claimants, the real story is more a matter of the government moving the goalposts when it suits them. When there is not enough staff, the national standard for claims processing moves from 21 to 28 days. Similarly, the standard for a call-back to an EI inquiry moves from two days to five. While this is designed to provide political cover for the government, the reality for Canadians who have lost their jobs and are in financial distress is a longer wait to receive their EI payments.

Despite the games the department plays with service standards, the Minister did have to admit that the department is failing to meet even these slacker standards. However, in the same paragraph she attempts to shift the blame for this failure to the productivity levels of CEIU members. MacDonald was having none of it, as her response above clearly shows.

The Minister's letter is an unwarranted attack on CEIU members, but it is also a measure of the government's vulnerability on the EI file. The public is not getting the service they deserve, further cuts will make a failing system worse, and the government's reliance on the promise of better service through technological modernization, rather than adequate staffing levels, has again been shown to be coming up short.

Working to save the Montague Claims Processing Centre

MacDonald and her members have been mobilizing against the announced closure of the Claims Processing Centre in Montague. They have enlisted the support of the PEI Premier, Robert Ghiz, as well as three Liberal MPs on the island. MacDonald plans to meet with PEI's fourth MP, Conservative Gail Shea, during a December trip to Ottawa. They are also working with municipal leaders who are concerned about the effect of federal government cutbacks on their local economies. "We are getting strong support from those we have spoken with so far," said MacDonald, "and our members are doing a great mobilizing job. We are working hard to save Montague and the jobs of other federal workers on the island."

Links and sources
  PEI region sets Minister Finley straight after her attack on CEIU members

Posted: December 07, 2011

Categories:
  Politics
  Public services
  Front lines

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