The Alberta Federation of Labour, in partnership with the Calgary and Edmonton Labour Councils, has released a new analysis (EI: It Should Be There When You Need It!) that shows that Canada's Employment Insurance (EI) program is failing unemployed workers at the very time they need it the most.
"The ranks of the unemployed in Alberta swell each month as layoffs continue," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "But the safety net we pay into is failing to stop their fall."
"The EI program is not doing what it is supposed to do - offer income protection and training support for unemployed workers. And its failure is worst here in Alberta."
Only 39% of unemployed in Alberta receive EI benefits. Alberta workers are the least likely in the country to be eligible for EI when they lose their job. This is due, in large part, to the fact that Alberta has the longest qualifying-hours requirement in the country.
"But even workers who are lucky to get EI benefits find it simply isn't enough," says Tom Olenuk, President of the Edmonton and District Labour Council. "Rates are too low and for too many, their benefits get cut off too quickly."
"We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis in 50 years, and Prime Minister Harper has done nothing to make EI more accessible to Canadians," says Collin Anderson of the Calgary and District Labour Council.
Highlights of the analysis include:
- The number of unemployed in Alberta has doubled since October 2008, to almost 154,000;
- Only 15% of young workers are eligible for EI when they lose their job;
- Albertans only receive $1,591 a month in EI benefits on average; and
- Albertans have to work the longest number of hours to be eligible for the shortest periods of coverage in Canada.
The analysis calls for drastic changes to the EI program to make it more responsive to unemployed Albertans. Changes recommended include: establishing a standard 360-hour eligibility period; elimination of the two-week waiting period; extending the benefit period to two years; and increasing funding for training.
"Laid-off workers are getting hit hard by the recession. It is the responsibility of the government to make sure they can continue to pay the rent and feed their families. And the failure to do so rests firmly at the feet of the Harper government," concludes McGowan.
Note: Gil McGowan (cell 780-218-9888) and Collin Anderson (403-819-6677) will be available for comment on the report on Monday, September 7th at the Calgary and District Labour Council Labour Day Barbeque (Calgary Olympic Plaza, 228 - 8 Avenue SE, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.) Tom Olenuk (780-940-6797) will be available for comment on September 7th at the Edmonton and District Labour Council Barbeque (Giovanni Caboto Park, 95 Street and 109 Avenue, Edmonton, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.).
For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 218-9888