Minister Jane Stewart Human Resources Development Canada
I am writing further to your letter of April 14, 2003 to demand immediate action to resolve the problem facing hundreds of flight attendants who are being denied the Employment Insurance benefits to which they are entitled.
I fear, Madam Minister, that you have not been well served by your departmental advisors on this issue and I ask that you intervene personally to resolve this problem.
In your reply to my letter of February 27, you suggest it is reasonable that flight attendants who have been employed full-time, paying Employment Insurance premiums in good faith and now find themselves laid off, should expect to wait until a regulation can be drafted to assure them the benefits that are their due.
Madam Minister, it is not reasonable that they should have to wait. And given there has been no progress toward a resolution of this problem in the six weeks since your letter, your personal attention to this issue is urgently required.
What the letter that was drafted for your signature fails to acknowledge is that this problem arises from bureaucratic bungling within HRDC itself. In 1996 HRDC misclassified flight attendants for the purposes of Employment Insurance, wrongly lumping them in with pilots. In 2002, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency spotted the error, calling on HRDC to correct it. HRDC then compounded the problem, by again misclassifying them. Earlier this year, CUPE intervened and CCRA blew the whistle, but still HRDC has got it wrong.
As a result, hundreds of flight attendants, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees working with Air Canada, Air Transat, Cathay Pacific and Calm Air, are being told they do not qualify for full EI benefits, despite the fact they have contributed, in some cases, for years.
If this problem were affecting pilots – mainly men – it would have been solved by now. But because flight attendants are primarily women, it’s as if they should expect to sit back and wait while the federal government and the employers get your act together to ensure flight attendants are paid the benefits that are their due.
In many instances, these EI benefits are the difference between making ends meet and desperation. Your urgent intervention is required to break through the bureaucratic barriers and speed benefits to these workers.
I would appreciate an immediate acknowledgement of this letter and an urgent response.
Judy Darcy National President Canadian Union of Public Employees