May 12, 2009
EI is broken - it's time to fix it!

"How much more broken does Canada's Employment Insurance program have to be before the federal government decides to fix
it?," Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) President Ken Georgetti asks in reaction to the recent 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% of unemployed Canadians are receiving EI
regular benefits.  That is lower than December 2008 when 44.35% of unemployed workers were receiving EI benefits. In the
recession in the early 1990s, on average, 80% 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.

“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.
"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?"

The CAW has called on the government to immediately expand EI benefit coverage for up to an additional year so long as the
national unemployment rate exceeds 6.5 per cent.  CAW National President Ken Lewenza said this emergency extension in
coverage should be funded by the federal government directly rather than through existing unemployment insurance (EI) funds,
similar to action taken by the federal government in the 1980s.  

"The economic conditions in this country are worsening each month as Canadians are being thrown out of work at a rate not seen
in over 20 years and the extra five weeks of EI coverage promised by the Harper government just doesn't cut it," Lewenza said.  "It
infuriates me to hear Finance Minister Jim Flaherty boast about the strength of Canada's EI system, oblivious to the fact that drastic
cutbacks made to the system in past years have put the livelihoods of so many working Canadians and their families in jeopardy.  
It's outrageous."

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%.”

The CLC has consistently called on the Minister to:

  • Change 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.

Today, nearly one and a half million Canadians are categorized as unemployed, a figure that doesn't account for workers who have
exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits and have stopped searching for work.
Source:  
From files of CAW & CLC