Canada’s largest union is pledging to fight the abrupt and unilateral changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance program being pushed by the Harper Conservative government.

CUPE’s National Executive Board passed a resolution today to mount a public campaign opposing the Conservatives plan to dismantle the current EI program – a move that threatens the quality public services Canadian communities depend on.

Seasonal workers – like those who work for many municipalities and school boards - are a vital part of local economies. The changes to EI will mean these skilled workers will not be available for recall by municipal and school board employers after regular seasonal lay-offs.

The NEB resolution calls for a lobby effort to urge municipalities, school boards, and all levels of governments to speak out against these disruptive changes – being forced on Canadian communities without public consultation or open debate. 

CUPE will also be helping locals and activists voice their opposition, and will work with the broader labour movement and allies to bring about progressive changes to EI that support unemployed Canadians. 

Resolution of CUPE’s National Executive Board
June 20, 2012

FIGHTING THE HARPER GOVERNMENT ATTACK ON EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

CUPE NATIONAL WILL:

  • Fight against changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance Program that will reduce benefits and adversely impact working people:
  • Mount a public campaign assisted by all provincial and service divisions in opposition to the Harper Government’s plan to dismantle the current Employment Insurance Plan;
  • Write to the Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Employment Insurance demanding that they make no changes to Employment Insurance until the government consults with all stakeholders with a view to creating an employment insurance system that is responsive to the needs of Canadians;
  • Write to the Premiers and Finance Ministers in all provinces and territories alerting them to the fact that Harper’s plan to substantially restrict access to and reduce Employment Insurance benefits will download costs to their treasuries through increased social assistance payments to unemployed Canadians;
  • Lobby all levels of government including municipalities, school boards and others to bring pressure upon the Harper Government to oppose changes to Employment Insurance eligibility, reduction in benefits and changes to the appeals process;
  • Lobby municipalities, school boards and other employers who rely on seasonal workers to provide essential public services in their communities to speak out against changes which will negatively affect their ability to recruit qualified workers in their communities;
  • Provide Local Unions and activists with the necessary tools to voice their opposition to the changes Harper plans for Employment Insurance. This may include fact sheets, on-line petitions, draft letters to MPs and talking points; and
  • Continue to work with the Canadian Labour Congress, affiliates and like-minded progressive organizations to bring about progressive changes to Employment Insurance that supports unemployed Canadians.

BECAUSE:

  • The Harper Government’s has no mandate from the Canadian Electorate to make any changes to Employment Insurance that would negatively affect Canadians now or in the future.
  • The Harper Government changes to Employment Insurance will penalize so called “frequent claimants” by imposing restricted access to EI and reducing benefits.
  • The changes will make it more difficult for claimants who are denied benefits to appeal the denial and to receive a reply to the appeal in a timely fashion.
  • The changes will adversely impact upon up to 50,000 CUPE members who work seasonally in school boards, municipalities and universities.
  • Social assistance costs for provinces and municipalities will rise to support unemployed Canadians forced into poverty as a result of Harper downloading costs through restricted access to Employment Insurance benefits.
  • For every 5.8 unemployed Canadians there is one job vacancy.  In February 2012, only 39.9% of unemployed Canadians were eligible for Employment Insurance benefits.  These negative changes proposed by the Harper Government will reduce these numbers.
  • Employment Insurance is a insurance for unemployed Canadians, paid for by workers and not a social program.