With proposed EI changes, more Canadians will be forced into the kind of bad jobs
Flaherty says don't exist, says AFL
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's shocking comment that there are "no bad jobs" in Canada demonstrates that the Harper Conservatives have willingly become the heavies for employers who want to force unemployed Canadians to accept low-wage or otherwise undesirable jobs, says the president of Alberta's largest labour organization.
"When they had a minority government, the Harper Conservatives would at least pretend they were interested in the little guy," says AFL president Gil McGowan.
"But now that they have their long-sought-after majority, the Conservatives are showing their true colours. They don't really work for all Canadians – they work for their friends in business. And if those friends say 'squeeze the little guy,' then they'll squeeze the little guy."
McGowan says that if employers are looking for workers in the service sector or in remote locations like the oil sands, then they should make those jobs more attractive to workers by offering higher wages, access to training or better travel allowances. Instead, they're turning to a compliant federal government to coerce people into taking jobs they don't want.
"Minister Flaherty and other federal Conservatives are forgetting why the Employment Insurance system was set up in the first place," says McGowan.
"It's not welfare. It's an insurance system that workers and employers pay for themselves. It's designed to provide enough income so that Canadians don't fall into poverty when they lose their jobs. And, perhaps most importantly, it's designed to give Canadians some breathing room so they can find a job that actually fits their skill set, as opposed to grabbing the first crappy job that comes along. All of this makes sense for both individuals and the broader economy."
McGowan points out that recent international studies show conclusively that more generous unemployment benefits actually enhance overall economic productivity by encouraging a better fit between workers and jobs (click here for OECD study). Canadian studies also show that the EI system is not discouraging worker mobility in Canada (click here for Mowat study).
"The Harper Conservatives are catering to the narrow self-interests of a few employers, especially employers here in Alberta," says McGowan. "But it's the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription. This kind of mean-spirited, low-road approach is going to hurt tens of thousands of Canadians who, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs. And it's going to hurt the broader Canadian economy over the long run."
"The Conservatives like to portray themselves as competent managers of the economy," McGowan concludes. "But how is it competent to actively encourage a mismatch between jobs and skills? How is it competent to drive down wages and undermine the middle class? The truth is that the Conservatives are not competent. They're mean, they're bullies and they're not willing to let pesky facts get in the way of ideology. They're all those things, but competence and compassion are clearly not among their virtues."
A good summary of what the proposed changes to the EI system look like and what they would mean for Canadians has been prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). To view the analysis, follow this link.
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, President @ 780-218-9888 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (office)