CAW - Canadian Auto Workers : EI Changes Make Workers More Vulnerable
09/13/2012| 05:17pm US/Eastern
The Harper government's recent changes to Employment
Insurance eligibility rules will increase the precariousness
of jobs and undermine the bargaining power of workers across
This was the message delivered to a group of over 160
community activists and union members during a special town
hall meeting held in Oshawa, Ontario on September 12. The
event intended to unpack the series of significant changes to
federal EI rules announced earlier this year within the
federal government's omnibus budget bill.
The changes include forcing laid-off workers to seek new
employment, even if those jobs fall outside their usual
occupation or if those jobs pay substantially lower wages,
among other moves.
CAW national staff representative responsible for adjustment
and employment insurance services Cammie Peirce said these
changes are part of a "cheap labour strategy" that
enables employers to force vulnerable workers to work longer
and earn less.
"The new rules will place pressure on the unemployed to
seek and accept employment that doesn't meet their
needs," Peirce said. "Forcing workers to accept the
first available job is not a good labour market policy.
Precarious work flourishes in this environment. We want
workers to find good jobs that match their skill set."
Peirce was one of three panelists that spoke to about 75 town
hall participants at the CAW Local 222 union hall and another
90 watching live, from the CAW Family Education Centre in
Port Elgin, via Skype.
Durham Region Labour Council President Jim Freeman criticized
the government for gutting the EI appeals process,
effectively firing over 900 locally-based experts (who sit on
regional referee boards to hear appeals) and replacing them
with just 37 individuals, considered EI
"specialists" - a move that will take effect in
Canadian Labour Congress Senior Economist Angella MacEwan
flagged that the suite of EI changes could result in laid-off
workers returning to work by taking a 10-30 per cent pay cut
(depending on how frequently they have received EI in the
past) or taking on a job that involves a commute of up to one
hour or even longer.
The event was wrapped up with an hour-long open forum, where
participants asked questions and expressed their concern with
the new rules. Many committed to speak directly with
their local MP and MPP and participate in a CLC-led postcard
campaign and future campaign initiatives.
The EI town hall was co-sponsored by the Canadian Labour
Congress - Ontario Division, the Durham Region Labour Council
and CAW Local 222.