Public Values

EI needs to work better for more people

Canada's jobs crisis deeper than the government's own statistics suggest.

Ken Georgetti wants EI revamped to make it work better for more peopleOTTAWA, April 28, 2009 — "How much more broken does Canada's Employment Insurance program have to be before the federal government decides to fix it?" Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti said today, in reaction to the latest Statistics Canada figures on employment insurance benefits.

Today's figures continue to show shockingly low numbers of unemployed workers who are receiving benefits at a time when the jobless rate is skyrocketing. Over 1.4 million people are out of work, yet only 43.09 percent of unemployed Canadians are receiving EI regular benefits. That is lower than December 2008 when 44.35 percent of unemployed workers were receiving EI benefits. In the recession in the early 1990s, on average, 80 percent of unemployed Canadians received regular benefits.

Even the government's minister responsible for EI knows the system does not work. "Last week, Diane Finley responded to questions in the House about EI eligibility by saying while it is true not everyone is eligible for benefits, everyone has agreed that this is not the time to overhaul EI," says Georgetti.

"My first question to Minister is who is she talking to that doesn't think EI needs an overhaul? My second question is how bad does it have to get before she decides it is time to fix the problem?"

Georgetti added that the country's jobs crisis is deeper than the government's own statistics suggest. "Officially we have 1.4 million unemployed people who, by definition are out of a job, yet ready, willing and able to work. Add in people who have given up and stopped looking for work, as well as the people who have settled for part-time because full-time jobs can't be found, and Canada's 'real' unemployment rate looks more like 12 percent."

"We have a fundamental problem with one of Canada's leading economic stimulus programs in the midst of a recession and month after month of record job losses. How can the Minister not see a problem that needs to be fixed?" asks Georgetti. The CLC has consistently called on the Minister to:

• accessibility rules to provide regular EI benefits on the basis of 360 hours of work.

• raise benefit levels to 60%of earnings calculated on a worker's best 12 weeks.

• increase the period for which benefits can be collected to a maximum of 50 weeks.

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.

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Posted: April 30, 2009

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