CUPE says the federal government’s decision to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by eight weeks is the right one and will help workers in Canada weather the economic storm caused by COVID-19. The decision will allow CERB recipients to claim the benefit for up to 24 weeks, up from the previous limit of 16 weeks.

CUPE is also pleased to see that the government is not proposing any further restrictions on access to the CERB. Last week, lacking opposition support, the Liberal government was forced to shelve Bill C-17, which would jail or fine people who made improper claims.

However, CUPE is concerned that rules around returning to work remain unclear, and employers may use the threat of losing CERB to force individuals to return to unsafe work environments. We call on the government to make the rules for CERB clear up front, with a transparent and accessible review process for disputes.

The NDP under Jagmeet Singh deserves credit for this important progress, after the New Democrats pressured the Liberals to extend the CERB to help workers and families through these difficult times. The Liberals need the support of at least one opposition party to survive an upcoming confidence vote in the House of Commons, and Singh had made the NDP’s support on that motion conditional on the Liberals extending CERB.

However, the storm is not over yet. While today’s announcement is positive, CUPE remains concerned that the government still has not fixed the issue of top-ups, which leaves thousands of workers worse off than they would have been if they had been on Employment Insurance. CUPE is also concerned that the EI system is not equipped to support the millions of Canadians who still find themselves jobless in a crisis of this magnitude.

CUPE also reiterates its calls for the federal government to help the tens of thousands of workers in municipalities, post-secondary institutions and other public sector workplaces who have lost their jobs, by allowing public sector employers to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).