Employment Insurance – Making it work for working people!!!

The Harper government’s 2012 Budget (C-38) included many changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance Program, changes to the rules around what constitutes suitable employment and reasonable job searches, as well as to long-standing EI pilot projects which had somewhat addressed the country’s diverse labour market challenges. In addition, the Harper government eliminated the tripartite appeal system (where workers had a voice) and created a one-person panel, staffed by a government appointee.

The changes to EI are part of a broader –low-wage strategy by the federal government which has included forcing Canadians to work two years longer before they can qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) and making it legal for employers to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than prevailing wage rates.

The recent economic crisis served to highlight how inadequate the country’s Employment Insurance system had become – especially for workers in hard-hit sectors; for some regions of the country; and for workers in precarious/non-standard work.  In addition, the level of benefits for all workers is inadequate.

The economic crisis also shed a very bright light on how badly the federal government has mismanaged this program with respect to the surpluses (which were used for non- EI purposes such as deficit elimination and paying down the debt) and failing to maximize the program’s ability to act as an economic stabilizer.

Despite this, the EI program is the single, biggest important social program we have in terms of a social safety net/ income replacement for people who lose their jobs. It also supports adult training in the country through the Labour Market Development Agreements. The problem is level of benefits, access, and duration.

The labour movement continues to fight for an Employment Insurance Program that works for working people.

Click here to read a backgrounder on employment Insurance - "Fixing EI so it Works for Working People"

Read the NLFL President's letter to the Prime Minister urging him to extend EI pilot projects and stimulus measures.