CLC president Ken Georgetti says EI must be improved

Canadian Labour Congress says unemployment is ravaging families and communities

OTTAWA - The Employment Insurance (EI) program must be improved to prevent tens of thousands of workers, their families and communities from suffering fallout from the worst economic crisis in a generation, says Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti.

He was responding to the release by Statistics Canada of labour force figures for May 2009, when a net of 41,800 workers lost their jobs. In fact, 58,700 full-time workers were laid off in May 2009, but other part-time jobs were created. The unemployment rate rose to 8.4 per cent - the highest in 11 years.

“We have now lost 406,000 full-time jobs since October 2008, and 1.55 million Canadians are unemployed,” Georgetti says. “Forecasts are that the unemployment rate will continue to increase over the next 12 months and a lot of Canadians without work will be left to fend for themselves. The Harper government has to fix Employment Insurance now.”

Georgetti says that in March 2009 only 46.8 per cent of those who are unemployed are actually receiving EI benefits. “This is a scandal,” he adds. “These workers contributed to Employment Insurance in good faith and now they are being left to fend for themselves. They will not be able to take their kids on a holiday this year or send them to summer camps, and when families don’t have money to spend, the entire community feels the pinch.”

Georgetti says it is scandalous, as well, that the Harper government has a $57 billion EI surplus but is downloading the costs of unemployment to provincial taxpayers when those workers have already paid for EI through their premiums.

The CLC is calling on the Harper government to:

  • change accessibility rules to provide regular EI benefits on the basis of 360 hours of work, no matter where people live and work in Canada.
  • make all workers eligible for up to 50 weeks of EI benefits.
  • raise benefits immediately to 60 per cent of earnings calculated on a worker’s best 12 weeks of earnings.

Quick Analysis from Senior Economist Sylvain Schetagne

The post-September 2008 job crisis continues. In May 2009, a net of 41,800 workers lost their jobs. In fact, 58,700 full-time workers were laid off in May 2009 but other part-time jobs were created. Overall, 406,100 full-time jobs have disappeared since last October.

The manufacturing sector, especially in Ontario, continues to be disproportionately hit by job losses. In Canada, 541,400 jobs in manufacturing have been eliminated since November 2002, but 337,000 of those manufacturing jobs were in Ontario. The number of workers in manufacturing in Ontario is now at its lowest level since at least the mid-1970s.

Canada’s unemployment rate increased from 8.0 per cent in April to 8.4 per cent in May, the highest level in 11 years. In May, the number of unemployed Canadians increased by 83,800. The total number of unemployed has increased by almost 400,000 since October 2008. This represents an increase of 34.5 per cent since last October. Canada now has 1,548,400 unemployed men and women.

The unemployment rate for workers aged 15 to 24 is rising rapidly, reaching almost 15 per cent in May 2009. The labour market for students is much worse than last year. When compared to May 2008, 59,000 full-time jobs usually performed by students aged 20 to 24 years old have disappeared. The unemployment rate for these students was 18.3 per cent in May 2009, up from 15.4 per cent last year. These figures do not take into account the fact that many students decided not to enter the labour market this year. The participation rate for these students fell from 75.2 per cent last year to 68.6 per cent this year.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.