OTTAWA - To highlight the insensitivity of the Conservatives toward the unemployed in the days leading up to Christmas, workers’ groups in Atlantic Canada opposed to the recent employment insurance reforms are in Ottawa to present the “Diane Finley’s Beans” cans. The product takes aim at the federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development about the reforms, which are sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the unemployed and their families.
“Although this is of course a fictional marketing effort, the precarious situation of unemployed workers in Atlantic Canada, as in the rest of the country, is unfortunately real. Many of these people won’t have much more than beans to feed their children this winter due to the Conservative cuts to the Employment Insurance program,” stated Daniel Légère, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) New Brunswick. “We are confident that when she sees her own face on our symbolic cans of beans, Minister Finley will realize what the unemployed are going through and change her mind.”
According to Wayne Lucas, president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador, the recent employment insurance changes affecting workers across Canada will have the strongest impact in the country’s east. “For workers in the Atlantic provinces, these reforms are catastrophic,” he said. “Their impact will be hardest on the thousands of workers in seasonal industries such as fishing, forestry, construction and tourism, including a high proportion of women.”
“The Harper government is in the process of tearing down a system built to provide for the financial security of our workers in the event that they lose their jobs,” continued CUPE National President Paul Moist. “This goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Canada is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for protection against unemployment (Article 23.1) and the right to security in the event of unemployment (Article 25.1).
“The Conservative government is attacking those who are most vulnerable because they have neither jobs nor the financial means to defend themselves that large corporations have,” added Acadie-Bathurst MP Yvon Godin. “The government is responsible for helping workers when they lose their jobs, not for knocking them when they’re already down. Why do the Conservatives hate the workers of this country so much?”
In parallel with the press conference, the workers’ groups in Atlantic Canada opposed to the employment insurance reforms plan to draw further attention to the problem today by mass-distributing cases of “Diane Finley’s Beans” today to Conservative MPs from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Galling Changes to the Rules
The workers’ groups in Atlantic Canada opposed to the employment insurance changes are finding certain aspects of the Conservative reforms particularly offensive:
The reorganization of employment categories is leaving many workers to cope with significant pay cuts.
Workers will be forced to accept lesser jobs that are located within a one hour drive or 100 km of their homes.
The pilot project offering five additional weeks of benefits to workers in 25 regions with high unemployment is being eliminated, which will mean the reappearance of the “black hole” effect in the spring of 2013.
- The appeals tribunal for employment insurance, which was effective and accessible, is being eliminated. This will lead to processing delays.
“The Conservative administration has made these harmful changes covertly without informing the citizens of this country, without consulting people in rural regions whose economies depend heavily on seasonal industries and without bothering to hear the viewpoint of the workers who need to be able to depend on employment insurance,” Légère concluded. “These sloppy reforms need to be cleaned up as soon as possible.”