May 19, 2008
It’s the unemployed workers’ money, give it back to them!
Canadians are fair people.  Had they been consulted, they would have rejected with revulsion the idea of a decade-long policy of taking money from
unemployed workers to pay for deficit and debt reduction and for tax cuts for the rich.  That policy is not only immoral and wrong. We are in court to argue that it
is against the constitution.

Yet, this is the policy followed by successive governments in Ottawa for over a decade.  They starved the unemployed to the point that now there is nominally a
$54 billion Employment Insurance surplus.  This money belongs to unemployed workers and the labour movement was making this argument, a few days
ago, in the country's highest court of justice.

We believe that the federal government exceeded its constitutional authority and acted illegally when it accumulated an Employment Insurance Fund surplus of
$54 billion and used that surplus for purposes other than the interests of unemployed workers.

We’ve been making this argument on Parliament Hill also.  The Canadian Labour Congress argued at Parliamentary hearings on the Budget Implementation
Bill that MPs can't just ignore the EI surplus when it comes to setting EI rates and benefits.  Yet, the proposed new EI Financing Board is instructed to ignore
the past surplus.  In the legislation the Conservative government wants to complete the theft by erasing the debt to the unemployed workers that remains in the
books.

Any new EI Fund should be fully backstopped by the accumulated surplus, so that benefits can be improved, and so that premiums do not have to be increased
if our economy falls into recession.  Moreover, Parliament and government must focus on workers’ access to regular and other benefits.  The key reforms to the
EI program which we have advocated is a reduction in the number of qualifying hours to 360 in all regions, a longer duration of up to 50 weeks of regular
benefits and an increase to at least 60% in the percentage of insured earnings replaced by EI benefits based on the best 12 weeks of earnings.  These
improvements would better the lives of working families, with particular benefit to working women, and would be easily affordable if even a small part of the
accumulated EI surplus had been made available to finance program improvements.

Click here to read more on the Canadian Labour Congress' Statement on the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB)

Source:  Canadian Labour Congress
 
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