MONCTON - “We don’t need Premier Alward’s new committee to look at how federal reforms to employment insurance will affect workers in the province since we already know the answers: more poverty, more insecurity and more injustices!” says John Gagnon, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.
All workers, and not only those in seasonal industries, will need to accept jobs that offer salaries between 10% to 30% less than their previous job and they will be forced to accept work located up to one hour’s drive from their residence.
“A worker now making $15.00 an hour will have to accept a job at $10.50 an hour. Such a worker, if laid off, will lose $101.00 a week when collecting employment insurance. This example shows the real impact of the employment insurance reform on individual workers. It will deepen the poverty level of low-income workers, including their families. We don’t need a committee to tell us that” says Mr Gagnon.
“The same negative economic impact will occur when a worker will have to accept a low-paying job situated up to one hour from his residence. The proposed regulation means that a person living in Moncton will be forced to accept a job at Tim Hortons in Sussex or, someone from Tracadie-Sheila. Will be forced to accept a job in Bathurst or Miramichi. Imagine the economic impact on these workers in terms of gas cost. We don’t need a committee to tell us that.” says Ms Linda McCaustlin, the other co-chair.
“For regions of high unemployment, the elimination of an extra five week of employment insurance, as well as the abolition of the calculation of benefits based on the best 14 weeks of work, all this means less money coming into the regional economy. We don’t need a committee to tell us that this will create more economic insecurity within these regions.” continues Ms. McCausltin.
“Currently, the employment insurance appeal system is based on 1,000 reviewers composed of three-member teams each made up of part-time volunteers coming from labour, employers and government. They hear the appeals in each region of the country. The federal government is proposing that this effective process be replaced by 39 full-time “expert members” who will work from Ottawa. So, expect longer waiting period for decisions and less justice for workers. We don’t need a committee to tell us that.” says Ms McCausltin.
We need to remember that the employment insurance program is entirely funded by workers and employers. The federal government does not put any money in this program. All the proposed negative changes to the employment insurance program have been brought about without any consultations with workers’ organizations. The changes are being made to satisfy the demands of a portion of the employers’ community represented by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.
“David Alward needs to listen to workers who will be affected by these negative changes and must not be influenced by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. This organization is against increases in minimum wage, favours a two-tier minimum wage, is against a drug plan for uninsured New Brunswickers, and is against increasing the Canadian Pension Plan so that all workers can retire with a pension and are not forced into poverty. This organization of business people regroups many employers who are paying the lowest wages and who provide almost no benefits or pension plan” says Mr. Gagnon.
``The proposed changes to employment insurance will increase the poverty level in our province, and even more so in rural New Brunswick where there is a concentration of seasonal fishery, tourism and forestry industries which demand a high number of workers at specific time of the year and where there are almost no jobs between those periods” concludes Mr. Gagnon.