The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada’s largest union, welcomes the announcement of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Changes to the federal relief measures previously announced came after major pressure from Canadians, including CUPE. However, CUPE still has concerns that today’s announcements won’t put money into the peoples’ pockets quick enough.
The new benefit will cover people who have lost their job, people who are sick or quarantined, and parents who must stay home without pay to care for children. The benefit also covers workers who have no income due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will cover employees, contract workers, and self-employed workers to the tune of $2,000 per month for the next four months, backdated to March 15, 2020.
“We’re glad that the Prime Minister listened to the voices of working people, the labour movement, and the NDP in Parliament, and agreed to provide this important support for workers affected by the pandemic,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “But government can and must do more.”
In particular, CUPE is concerned that people who were already on Employment Insurance may fall through the cracks. Only maternity and parental benefits are counting as income currently, not regular benefits or sick benefits. And the government is not allowing employer top-ups to go along with the CERB. CUPE is calling for the CERB to apply to workers whose hours have been reduced, and to allow employer top-ups as is the case with the EI.
CUPE is also calling for action to support Canadians’ housing needs over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. “It is unconscionable to hear about people losing their homes or facing major penalties for missing rent or mortgage payments for no fault of their own,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “CUPE is reiterating its call for the government to force banks and major corporations to waive interest payments and defer loan and mortgage repayment deadlines without penalty.”
Read more in our Q&A covering the CERB here.