CUPE has worked with the NDP to clarify the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) rules so they don’t penalize seasonal workers. It’s a win that will help many workers, including CUPE school board members.

Before the change, CERB eligibility rules left seasonal workers in a tough situation. They’d been laid off because of COVID-19, but didn’t qualify for the CERB because the seasonal nature of their industry meant they already had open EI claims.

This left many school boards and other seasonal workers worse off than workers who qualified for the CERB.

CUPE and NDP Employment Insurance critic Daniel Blaikie reached out to the federal Department of Employment and Social Development and pushed for seasonal workers to be allowed to access the CERB. Our advocacy led to a clarification that seasonal workers in this situation could choose to either receive EI benefits or close their claim and apply for the CERB.

This means seasonal workers, including laid-off school board workers in Manitoba and Alberta, will get more support, making it easier to pay rent and put food on the table.

There’s more work to do to improve CERB, including fighting for the right for employer top-ups. Some workers in Canada are still worse off than they would have been on EI because of the CERB rules, which don’t allow top-ups. This leaves some workers collecting less on the CERB than they would have on EI.

CUPE will keep working to ensure emergency support programs provide the support workers need to feed and house their families and have some security during the pandemic and recovery.

Get the details in our CERB Q&A, and our backgrounder on income supports for workers affected by COVID-19.