Laid-off Workers Need Stricter Rules on Income Supports and Severance, CAW President Says

March 13, 2009, 2:05 PM EST

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The dramatic job loss figures released today by Statistics Canada should prompt governments to take immediate action in addressing problems like the lack of income supports and severance pay for the growing number of recently laid-off Canadians across the country, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

"Tens of thousands of workers are losing their jobs each month and companies are allowed to walk away from these people with little or no obligations," said Lewenza. "This is unjust and it must be changed immediately in the form of improved access to EI benefits and legally-binding severance obligations where workers are paid before the banks and other creditors."

February was fraught with bad news as Canada shed more than 82,000 jobs. Most alarming was the loss of 111,000 full-time jobs, which were only partially compensated by part-time employment.

Canadians are becoming accustomed to this bad news, but it's critical that all levels of government recognize the terrible human toll this job loss is having right across our country, Lewenza said.

These latest labour market figures, released monthly by Statistics Canada, bring the running total to nearly 300,000 jobs lost in the past four months.

"It is appalling that hundreds of thousands of Canadians right now are struggling desperately to access basic public support mechanisms like unemployment insurance," said Lewenza. "Most appalling is that the Harper government can take action to fix this problem, but instead has repeatedly chosen to ignore it."

Unions are calling on the federal government and provincial governments to improve access to EI benefits and extended EI coverage for workers who have been laid-off, enhance income and benefit protections as well as institute severance pay guarantee legislation in federal and provincial jurisdictions.

Despite an uptick in manufacturing employment, Statistics Canada reports that over 100,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the past twelve months. Unemployment rates in the manufacturing-intensive communities of Windsor (12.6), Niagara (9.5) and Kitchener (9.1) were the highest of all major Canadian cities. 

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