Governments have been active throughout the COVID-19 crisis in order to quickly try to fill the many gaps in Canada’s income security programs.
This scramble left many workers with questions. Why were so many workers unable to access employment insurance (EI) when they were suddenly laid-off?
Why did we not have programs for workers to be able to take sick leave during the pandemic?
Who is still falling through the cracks?
Unifor’s #BuildBackBetter road map sets out the answers to these questions with a plan to rebuild employment security for all of Canada’s workers.
James Griffin outlined some of these solutions in a June media conference.
“We want to see EI eligibility expanded, to reflect the type of jobs people are working in today,” said James Griffin, President of Local 4276 at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. “We want the benefits increased, so unemployed workers can make ends meet and support their families. Waiting periods should be eliminated to ensure people get support immediately.”
No worker should live in poverty. Government can and must build a robust income security system that repairs Employment Insurance, strengthens employment standards and increases employment security.
“Canada’s workers deserve better from their government in times of trouble, and we must be ready to fight for a better future,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “While the tried and proven solution to build back our economy is to invest in workers, Conservative governments like Jason Kenney’s are already running to the right with deep cuts and draconian attacks on workers rights.”
The pandemic has exposed the fact that our social safety net was inadequate long before this crisis, and the importance of unions in advocating for workers’ income security and health and safety.
Unifor has seven recommendations to improve the income security system.
- a minimum wage of at least $15 and tied to 60% of the median hourly wage for full-time workers;
- stronger employment standards and labour legislation to provide stability for workers to ensure everyone is covered;
- permanent changes to the EI program to expand eligibility, access and benefits;
- facilitating more leisure time and work life balance in the lives of workers;
- rolling out the Canada Housing Benefit across the country;
- promoting retirement security; and
- designing an income security system, using the CERB as the new income floor, that ensures no individual or family lives with an income under this benchmark.