‘A Big Blow To Workers’: NBFL Reacts To Federal EI Changes

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) says it is concerned about changes the federal government plans to bring to Employment Insurance (EI) this month.

In a news release, the federation says temporary measures from the COVID-19 pandemic, which improved access to EI, expire on Sept. 25.

Daniel Legere, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, said the changes are “a big blow to workers,” with inflation at an all-time high and the rising cost of living.

“It will see many families facing huge hurdles this fall and winter as many seasonal industries close,” he said.

The federation pleads with Ottawa to “leave EI alone and extend the recovery measures as a bridge to permanent EI improvements.”

If changes go ahead, the NBFL said workers would face a jump in the minimum of 420 qualifying hours for regular and special benefits, parental, sickness and the allocation/clawback of separation pay.

It adds that women, workers of colour and others in precarious jobs are at particular risk.

“Without these supports, it would have been much worse for workers and their families due to the COVID closures, lockdowns, and layoffs,” the federation states.

“An inaccessible and inadequate EI program is another disaster for workers who need access to EI now when the next crisis hits, never mind worsening COVID and inflation.”

The NBFL joins several groups across Canada, demanding the federal government immediately extend the temporary EI measures and implement the following permanent changes:

Expand EI access:

  • A 360-hour or 12-week qualifying rule with 50 weeks of income support;
  • An end to harsh disqualification rules;
  • Ensure migrant workers have access to EI;
  • End misclassification, a practice where employers falsely label their employees as self-employed independent contractors to avoid paying their fair share of EI and CPP;
  • Improve the weekly benefit rate and include a guaranteed weekly minimum;
  • Fund a new, annual federal government contribution to EI to help pay for improvements;
  • Ensure EI acts as an effective economic stabilizer in times of crisis.
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