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Toronto - Calling for the surplus of billions of dollars in employment insurance to be rebated to workers “is a transparent bid by wanna-be Premier Jim Flaherty to curry favour with workers. Don’t use shallow, phony concern for workers as a ploy in the Tory leadership race.

When Flaherty was labour minister he did nothing to help working people. His concern now is nothing more than posturing and political opportunism,” says Sid Ryan the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), a Whitby resident and constituent of Flaherty’s.

Ryan is calling on the federal government to use the surplus to expand the eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance to cover more workers. The surplus increased by $8 billion last year to $36 billion because the changes adopted by the federal Liberals have cut one million unemployed workers a year from insurance coverage.

What we have today is an unemployment insurance system that used to cover most workers, now protecting less and less working people when they lose their jobs.

If Flaherty was really concerned about the financial well being of Ontario workers, he would be calling for an expanded system that allows those people – many of the part-time, contingent workers in our province who pay into the plan– to qualify to collect premiums when they’re out of a job,” says Ryan.

Currently, two-thirds of all unemployed workers cannot qualify for benefits although they do qualify to make contributions. The stringent eligibility rules discriminate against women, youth, older workers, who are most likely to hold precarious contingent jobs, and workers in seasonal industries such as tourism.

Ryan, who along with hundreds of labour activists attended a large demonstration earlier this week in support of Toronto hotel workers points out that a key factor in the stalled contract negotiations is the lack of access to unemployment insurance benefits for these hotel employees.

Like medicare, unemployment insurance is one of the social programs that Canadians value. But this eludes Flaherty, who reduces a valued social program for all workers to a tax on businesses.

He fails to see that disqualifying unemployed people from collecting benefits, hurts business in a much more profound way by ripping money away from local economies. And, because so many unemployed are unable to collect benefits the demand for local social assistance – paid for through provincial and municipal taxes- increases,” says Ryan.


For more information please contact:
Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
(416) 209-0066
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774