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Canadian labour leaders delivered a strong message to federal finance minister Paul Martin Tuesday, January 12. Employment insurance money belongs to workers and shouldn’t be used for tax cuts.

CLC president Bob White, CUPE National President Judy Darcy and other labour leaders met with Martin to demand that the rules restricting eligibility for EI benefits be radically revamped.

“It’s not acceptable that money that’s taken off workers’ cheques for employment insurance be used for everything but,” said White.

In their meeting, representatives from a range of unions outlined the impact of the cuts on workers, especially women, youth, seasonal and part-time workers. Barely one in four unemployed workers is currently receiving EI benefits.

“The federal surplus has been built up at the expense of pregnant women, school board employees working ten months a year, teaching assistants who can’t get recognition for their preparation time and many others who have been denied benefits,” said Darcy.

Martin agreed to a further meeting with union leaders, human resources development minister Pierre Pettigrew and senior departmental officials to examine eligibility requirements and the use of EI funds.

On February 5, CUPE will be joining in the CLC Day of Action to demand changes to EI. Information will follow but in interim, you can contact your CLC regional representative.