Unifor sets federal budget priorities to Build Back Better

Workers believe Canada can Build Back Better


February 19, 2021

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to prioritize improvements to income security, pandemic supports, industrial strategy, critical infrastructure, and public services in the union’s federal budget recommendations, with the goal to #BuildBackBetter from COVID-19.

“This pandemic has exposed massive cracks in the economic and social supports that Canadians depend upon,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “This budget is an opportunity for the government to put together a bold stimulus package to speed economic recovery and overhaul the programs that failed us when COVID-19 hit.”

Unifor’s formal budget submission calls on the government to reform Employment Insurance to expand eligibility, access and benefits and to undertake comprehensive consultation to include those that are self-employed, freelancers, independent contractors and “gig” workers.

The union is also calling for amnesty for workers facing Canada Emergency Response Benefit clawbacks due to overpayment, including supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB). Improvements needed to other pandemic measures include expanding the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and restructuring the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. The union also urges government action to prevent the loss of drug coverage for laid off workers, now ineligible for employer-sponsored health benefits.

Many of Unifor’s federal budget recommendations are mirrored in the union’s Road Map to A Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery, designed with the view to #BuildBackBetter from the pandemic.

“A clear industrial strategy is needed to create jobs, increase economic activity and position Canada to be more resilient in the future, that includes increasing our domestic industrial capacity,” said Dias.

To accelerate economic recovery, Unifor reiterates the need for industrial strategies in numerous sectors, including auto, aerospace, aviation, telecommunications, media, energy and heavy vehicle manufacturing.

The budget submission contains several transportation and transit related recommendations including:

  • $7 billion in aid for Canada’s airlines;
  • Implement a national aviation recovery plan;
  • Implement a national aerospace recovery plan;
  • Accelerate aircraft procurement focusing on made in Canada solutions;
  • Develop a National Public Transit Strategy;
  • Commit at least $180 million to purchase streetcars from Thunder Bay Alstom;
  • Invest in national rail service;
  • Create a national trade in program to incentivize the switch to electric vehicles.

As COVID-related economic change requires workers to transition to new jobs and potentially new industries, enhanced training benefits and targeted supports are also required to successfully move jobs to emerging sectors.

As an ongoing tragedy unfolds in the country’s long-term care system, Unifor calls on the federal government to establish and fund enforceable minimum standards for long-term care, create a comprehensive workforce strategy in partnership with provinces and territories and to phase out for-profit long-term care homes.

Unifor also continues to push for universal pharmacare and recommends building a pan-Canadian universal child care system.

Other key recommendations include:

  • Implement tax reform to reduce wealth and income inequality;
  • Initiate the ‘Netflix tax’ requiring foreign-based digital companies to remit the GST/HST;
  • Extend paid personal leave days to seven (to cover sick days and/or emergencies), with 14 paid personal leave days during public health emergencies.

The pandemic has led to the most severe economic downturn in generations. Rebuilding the economy will take an unprecedented effort. Unifor believes the only proven way to prevent further economic collapse and accelerate recovery once the acute phase of the pandemic has subsided is for government to play an active role.

Read Unifor’s full federal budget submission here.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.