Broken EI System Continues to Fail Canadians as Thousands More Unemployed, CAW President Says

June 5, 2009, 9:00 AM EST

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Labour market figures released earlier today by Statistics Canada show that 42,000 more Canadians were thrown out of work in the month of May, with an estimated 18,000 of them joining the already swelled ranks of unemployed workers who cannot receive benefits through Canada's fractured unemployment insurance (EI) system.

"Each month it seems another tidal wave of bad news hits Canadian workers, families and communities right across the country, as job losses continue to mount," said CAW President Ken Lewenza, in response to the latest Labour Force Survey employment data released on June 5 that shows overall Canadian employment drop by over 360,000 since October.

"It's absolutely disgraceful and gut-wrenching to see so many unemployed workers in this country suffering because they simply can't access basic EI benefits under our broken system."

Lewenza called the Harper government's refusal to provide long-overdue reforms to the EI system heartless, especially as more Canadians are faced with insecurity in one of the most turbulent economic times in history.

Canada's unemployment rate (8.4%) is at its highest point in 11 years, thanks in large part to massive job losses in the important auto and manufacturing sectors (186,000 since October) and the rapid drop in overall full-time employment (406,000 since October).

The survey also publishes regional unemployment rates that are used to determine qualifying requirements and duration of EI benefits for laid off workers over the course of the month.  In 33 of the 59 EI regions, average unemployment has increased. In 20 of those regions, the unemployment has risen sufficiently to change the qualifying requirements for those laid off in June.

The CAW has called on the federal government to introduce a suite of EI reforms, including an across-the-board reduction in qualifying hours, increase to the benefit level, elimination of the two-week waiting period and an extension in benefits.

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