On Tuesday, the House of Commons Finance Committee voted to remove clauses in the budget implementation act, Bill C-19, that were harmful to workers in the employment insurance appeals process. The removal of these clauses is a critical first step in undoing the damage done by Stephen Harper.
This win is the result of worker advocacy. Last month, CUPE President Mark Hancock wrote a letter to federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, pointing out that Bill C-19 ignored key recommendations coming out of the Liberal government’s own 2018 tripartite EI review. Specifically, the process laid out in Bill C-19 would have maintained some of the worst problems associated with Stephen Harper’s Social Security Tribunal, limiting access to justice for workers. The bill also undermined the role of workers in governing EI by removing the Commissioner for Workers and Employers from the EI appeals process.
Minister Qualtrough responded to workers’ concerns via Twitter on Tuesday, committing to strengthening the EI appeals process and to introducing new legislation in the fall. Following the minister’s announcement, the House of Commons Finance Committee voted to remove the clauses in question (Division 32) from Bill C-19.
CUPE commends the federal government for taking workers’ concerns seriously. As the federal government considers new legislation, CUPE would like to reinforce our priorities. We believe that the first level of EI appeals should be informal and as accessible to workers as possible. This includes making sure appeals are heard by worker and employer representatives who are answerable to their peers and who know their community and the realities of workplace life. We also want to ensure that the EI Board of Appeals is answerable to the entire EI Commission, including both the worker and employer representatives.