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The Progressive Economics Forum

Pushback on EI Changes

It has been a week and a half since changes to the definition of suitable employment and reasonable job search have come into effect.  Already, a single mom in Prince Edward Island, Marlene Giersdorf,  has become a symbol of the hardship these changes are likely to have on many Canadians in the coming months.

When she refused to expand her job search radius to Charlottetown, a 45 min drive away, because she didn’t have a car, she was cut off EI benefits. Giersdorf says she was told that if she wasn’t willing to look for work in Charlottetown, then she could always apply for social assistance.   Her protest has touched many, with some starting a fundraising website to buy her a car.

On Jan 15th, the Quebec government called on the federal government to reverse these changes to EI and do an assessment of their impact before reinstating any changes.  They are concerned about the downward pressure on wages, and increases in social assistance rates as unemployed workers are cut off benefits and have no available employment.

This response from the Quebec government follows a huge protest in Îles-de-la-Madeleine on January 13th, where over 4,000 people came out to protest the changes to Employment Insurance.

MPs from PEI are hearing broad concerns, and are tracking them so that they can be shared with Minister Finley.

This fear and confusion stems, in part, from a total lack of consultation with employers and employees regarding amendments to EI.  As evidenced by the backlash to the changes to the Working While on Claim pilot project changes, lack of consultation leads to unintended and sometimes negative outcomes for the very people that EI is meant to assist.

The confusion around these issues is likely to increase errors in EI claim decisions, and increase the number of appeals.  The current standard for EI appeals is that they be heard within 30 days, but in 2011-12 only 29% of appeals were heard within that time frame. This is a decline from 2002-03, when 42% of appeals were heard within 30 days.  Changes to the appeals process that come into effect in April 2013 only increase apprehension for unemployed workers and those who work with them.

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Comments

Comment from Frank Mosey
Time: January 17, 2013, 12:54 pm

There is an online campaign to get Marlene a cheap but functional vehicle http://www.gofundme.com/car4marlene there is also a petition against the new changes to EI benefits found here http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petition-on-the-recent-changes-to-unemployment-insuranc.html

Comment from Pauline
Time: January 28, 2013, 10:31 am

All of the federal government omnibus bills need to be scraped. This is a democratic country, and they just cain’t make major changes without consulting the people. I cant see how a nation can be so cruel and disconnected from reality to be so naive and thing that most Canadians who live with a low income abuse the system, I am sure that their is a small percentage that does, but it surly cant compare to our Government and CEO of large companies, who abuse the system in every way possible. I surely hope that not all Canadians are as cold hearted as our Federal Government is.
The federal government should be looking for solutions to all low income problems, and create job, not create poverty. A society that does not consider or include its entire people is not just, and an elected government, who steal from its low & middle class people, but gives millions and billions of dollars to the rich and large industries should not be in power. If there is no consideration, nor changes to these omnibus bills, we the people will certainly not forget them at our next federal election. We are not a disadvantage to our society; we all contribute as much as the rest of our Canadian population.

Comment from Elizabeth MacLeod
Time: January 28, 2013, 10:56 am

It is so obvious that the people who are making these decisions, policy changes etc. are out of touch with the realities of those who are unemployed . It doesn’t occur to them that perhaps those looking for work do not have the luxuries that these policy makers assume are simple staples in one’s life. A car is still a luxury even when you are working. The cost of purchasing, maintaining, insurancing and putting gas in it can still be out of range for many under-employed and working poor. For most in government positions not only do they have a car, they also have access to alternate transportation such as cars that come with drivers. Even renting a car is possible although often seen as an annoyance rather than a privilage!

It constantly amazes me that people who claim to get into politics in order to help people are the same people who are so disconnected from real life that they actually end up hurting the most vulnerable. Being unemployed is difficult enough without being submitted to further humiliation because one doesn’t have a car/transportation to get to work that is not within their local. Perhaps the government would like us to revert to the third world policies of making people walk for hours to work menial, low paying jobs. I always believed that unemployment insurance was our society’s way of preventing absolute poverty in our country. I must have misunderstood the idea of making sure that every citizen has a roof over their head and food on the table. We are no longer an agrucultural society, but an urban one and so we need these forms of insurance to prevent this. In the days when you could grow your own food and house your own animals it was different….but in the city we are at the mercy of the almighty dollar simply to survive!!!! Obviously our concept of universal diginity which has made Canada one of the best countries in the world to live is going by the wayside.

Comment from Angella MacEwen
Time: January 28, 2013, 11:42 am

There are several great campaigns starting up around Employment Insurance changes – on Facebook check out: https://www.facebook.com/Scrapthechange and there is a great petition for fixing EI at the Good Jobs for All website: http://goodjobsforall.ca/fix-employment-insurance/

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