The government’s piecemeal approach to the COVID-19 pandemic so far has hurt so many workers who have seen their employment prospects vanish, whether they were employed, unemployed, or at school at the beginning of the pandemic. While there is still a great deal to be done to ensure supports are getting out the door to people who need them, CUPE is encouraged to see the federal government is making progress on closing key gaps in income supports to workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 3, CUPE National President Mark Hancock wrote to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, demanding the government take immediate action to ensure millions of workers don’t fall through the cracks.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government would address some of these gaps, by topping up wages of essential workers, like long-term care workers, who are earning under $2,500 per month.
CUPE believes that the floor should be higher than $2,500 per month for essential workers. At the same time, we also recognize the importance of this measure as many provinces are creating single-site rules to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 within long-term care homes, and many workers may see a reduction in shifts as a result.
The government is also relaxing criteria to allow people who are about to run out of Employment Insurance or who earning under $1,000 per month to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
These changes should open up CERB to the many CUPE members normally employed in seasonal sectors who have watched their job prospects vanish, or members who are losing hours as a result of COVID-19.
It is thanks to efforts by unions like CUPE and by Jagmeet Singh’s NDP in the House of Commons, that these critical changes in federal policy are taking shape. CUPE and our allies will continue putting pressure on the government to make sure that everyone who needs help gets it.