PRESS RELEASE: JANUARY 26, 2009

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Georgetti says EI surplus must be used to improve EI benefits and training now that Canada is in a recession

OTTAWA The Canadian Labour Congress says that the federal budget on January 27th must fix the Employment Insurance program so that laid-off workers have adequate benefits to support themselves and their families while they search for new jobs.

"Workers pay into EI with the understanding that benefits will be there when they need it the most," says Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. "But governments have made changes to the program that are leaving many Canadians out in the cold."

A succession of federal governments have built up a gigantic surplus of over $54 billion in the EI fund, the result of the deep cuts in benefits and eligibility rules of the last fifteen years. In 1996, the maximum weekly benefit was $604 in today’s dollars. Today’s maximum is only $447, and the average benefit is just $335 per week. In 2006-07, only four in ten unemployed workers, and even fewer women, qualified for EI.

"I am calling upon Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to make the EI surplus available to backstop and improve benefits now that we are in a recession," Georgetti says. "Rainy day funds are supposed to be there for rainy days."

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. Web site:
www.canadianlabour.ca

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