Government Must Extend Temporary EI Measures for Unemployed, CAW says

July 16, 2010, 11:38 AM EST


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The federal government must act immediately to extend budget measures and pilot projects providing vitally important Employment Insurance supports to laid off workers, the Canadian Auto Workers is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"All the key Employment Insurance stimulus measures and projects are starting to fall off the table, beginning September 11," CAW President Ken Lewenza and Fish, Food and Allied Workers President Earle McCurdy told Harper in a July 13 letter.

"This will come as a terrible shock to most Canadians. Many of those currently on regular EI would have already exhausted their benefits if not for those measures," Lewenza and McCurdy state.

In its latest employment outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that the number of long-term unemployed almost doubled as a percentage of Canada's labour force in the last two years and recommended that EI temporary extensions "should be maintained until the pool of long-term unemployed begins to drop significantly."

Talk of early exit strategies for government stimulus at the G20 meetings and elsewhere is deeply disturbing, Lewenza and McCurdy state. "We believe it is dangerous for Canada to focus prematurely and narrowly on the few green shoots in the economy."

"Indeed, the recovery is still vulnerable. There's a danger of a double dip recession and both unemployment and underemployment will be with us for some time. Our members know this only too well; some are in their second layoff in as many years."

The $57 billion in EI premiums borrowed by successive governments was supposed to be there for us in the event of a rainy day. It is now raining," they state.

A battle is also heating up in the US over UI extensions. There the federal government has already extended benefits for up to 99 weeks, adding 73 weeks of extra benefits on top of the 26 weeks provided by most states. Canada's EI extensions are modest in comparison.

CAW and FFAW called for 8 temporary EI measures to be extended or made permanent, including

. an extra 5 weeks benefits for all claimants and an extension of up to 20 weeks for long service workers
. two pilot projects that base benefit calculations on 14 best weeks of earnings and allow earnings of up to 40% of benefits while on EI
. EI training benefits for claimants in approved re-training programs.

To read the complete copy of the letter to Harper go to: http://www.caw.ca/en/9128.htm

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