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In their 2012 budget, the Conservative government announced its intention to present legislative measures to “expand and clarify the obligations of people who receive regular employment insurance benefits and are seeking work.”


In reality,the legislative provisions in the Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures (formerly known as Bill C-38), the Conservatives gave the minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada the power to create new rules on what constitutes “suitable employment” and “reasonable and customary efforts to obtain suitable employment.”

When both employees and employers began urging the government to reveal its intentions as early as possible, the government ministers started leaking information and publicly contradicting one another on the nature of these changes.


A few facts on employment insurance (EI)


How does EI currently work?

The amount of EI corresponds to approximately 55% of the salary of the worker losing the job.

To be eligible for EI, you must have worked between 420 and 700 hours in the last 52 weeks preceding the cessation of work. 

Benefits are a maximum of $485 dollars per week · That is for people who paid maximum EI premiums (earnings of more than $45, 900). Anyone above that amount gets $485 per week. Below it, you will get 55% of your insurable earnings.

New immigrants must work 6 months before they can be eligible for benefits.

 What are the problems with the current EI system?

 Accessibility: Only 40% of the unemployed have access to benefits even if all employees and employers pay into it. In other words, if you lose your job at any given time, even if you paid into this insurance, you are not guaranteed to receive benefits because of the Conservatives’ limiting measures.

The number of claimants has gone from 800,000 in 2009 to 553.000 in 2012. This means that nearly half of the unemployed do not have access to benefits. Job creation alone cannot explain this decline.

Access to benefits went from 80% from 1982 to 1984, to 50% in 2008, to 40% in 2012.

Parents with sick children cannot receive EI benefits.

Women coming back from a maternity leave who lose their job cannot receive EI benefits.

There is a 2 week waiting period, 2 weeks without benefits. However, significant delays in the processing of claims at Service Canada often result in unemployed workers waiting 1 to 2 months before receiving their benefits.

Lack of investment in the workforce: There is no increase in the 2012-2013 budget to train workers, especially part-time workers.

What plans are Conservatives hiding in their Trojan Horse budget bill?

Suitable employment: The Conservatives’ budget implementation bill gives the minister the unilateral power to determine what represents “suitable employment” for Canadians.

This eliminates the legal protections that previously defined “suitable employment,” so that people could concentrate on the pursuit of their career and looking for a job in their field, and turn down employment associated with unreasonable wages or working conditions.

From now on, the unemployed will be divided into 3 categories: long-term workers, frequent claimants and occasional claimants.

But in all cases, the new measures mean that all workers who temporarily receive EI benefits will now have to accept less favourable wages and working conditions, after a certain period of time, or else their EI benefits will be cut. We are talking about a wage decrease of up to 30% of the average worker’s salary.

From now on, people will have to accept employment located up to an hour’s drive from their home.

Recently, Minister Flaherty said that there were no bad jobs, and that people should accept any job they are offered. The Conservatives want teachers, nursing staff and other specialists to abandon their careers and drive taxis and referee sports games.

Reasonable efforts: According to the government, a reasonable effort is based on criteria like job-seeking activities, the intensity of efforts, the type of employment sought and proof of job-seeking efforts.

Unemployed workers will have to redouble their efforts to prove to the government that they are actively looking for work and intend to return to work in a reasonable timeframe.

Elimination of appeal boards: Instead of improving accessibility and training the unemployed, the Conservatives hid these measures in their budget, decided to destroy decades of jurisprudence by abolishing appeal boards operating under a three-party system that knows the specificities of each region, culture and economic sector.

From now on, only one person will hear complainants via social security court. And to cover the 83 economic regions for EI, 39 people, appointed by the Governor in Council, will be mandated to process the 50,000 annual appeals of Canada’s unemployed.

The abolition of appeal boards in favour of a single court will increase wait times and cause huge delays for workers who make EI claims.

No consultation: The Conservatives didn’t even bother to consult Canadians, or even the provinces, before they announced these new restrictions. They are making arbitrary changes and fail the simplest test of transparency.

What is the Conservatives’ goal in bringing about these changes?

The Conservatives’ goal is clear: reduce accessibility of EI for the unemployed who dutifully contributed to ensure themselves insurance in case of job loss. They also want to eliminate client-focussed services by following a simplistic financial logic that at the end of the day will affect thousands of unemployed Canadian workers.

Overall, the Conservatives’ vision for our economy is very simple: lower taxes and cheap labour for big corporations and lower standards for everyone else.

In terms of job creation, the Conservatives seem to want to give high quality jobs to unsuccessful Conservative candidates, while forcing qualified workers to accept minimum wage jobs.

Who will be affected by the Conservatives’ unfair measures?

Seasonal and regional workers who work in industrial sectors that are crucial to the diversity of our economy.

The most affected sectors will be tourism, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and construction.

The most affected regions will be the Maritimes and Quebec.

Women represent one of the groups most affected by these new measures.

Marginalized groups, which represent nearly 1 million people will also be very affected (Aboriginals, visible minorities, women and persons with disabilities).

Remember that:

EI is not paid by public funds. The government doesn’t put a cent in the EI fund. The funds come from employees’ and employers’ contributions.

EI doesn’t interfere with employability.

EI doesn’t increase unemployment. On the contrary, all countries that put generous EI programs in place didn’t see an increase in unemployment.

Nearly 2 million Canadians are underemployed.

Canadian workers pay EI contributions. It’s insurance. It’s not a gift from the government. So why is the government interfering in this system and depriving Canadians of benefits to which they are entitled?


The message must be clear: This government must fight against unemployment and not against the unemployed!

Sign the petition!

If these changes affect you or someone you know you can also leave your comments on the website http://budget2012.npd.ca/

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