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CUPE told a federal committee that Canadas Employment Insurance program needs serious work if its to fix the problems it causes seasonal workers in school boards and universities.

The federal government is proposing some changes to the EI act that would undo the damage done by the 1997 reforms, but stressed to the committee that the changes do not go far enough.

The governments proposals wont help university teaching and research assistants or sessional instructors, who, all too often are denied benefits because they arent considered to have worked enough hours.

Prior to 1997, a sessional lecturer or assistant would have to work 300 hours to be eligible to receive benefits. The new, variable entrance requirement ranges from 420 to 700 hours depending on the regional unemployment rate.

Worse still, some employers do not count preparation time as paid time. So a lecturer who spends, on average three hours to prepare a one-hour lecture, will be considered to have worked only one hour not the four that common sense would dictate.

Similarly, school board workers are routinely denied EI benefits when they are laid off over the summer. Most are excluded because they havent worked enough hours to qualify. Others are considered continuous or permanent despite being unpaid for two months a year.

The union also pointed out that the governments changes wont affect women who face a 600 hour threshold to qualify for maternity, parental and sickness benefits.

CUPE recommends:

  • abolish the 910 hours of work requirement for those entering or re-entering the paid work force;
  • set the eligibility requirements to 360 hours across the country;
  • increase the amount of time you can be on EI;
  • allow women to qualify for maternity benefits after 300 hours.

To read the whole brief, visit: http://cupe.ca/www/news/submission_to_the_standin.