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Thursday, March 10, 2011

EI failing the middle class

EI failing the middle class

Legislative changes needed now

Many of us pay into Employment Insurance for years. Most of us rarely give it a second thought, but when we do, it's a comforting one. We think EI will be there when we need it. But the truth is that Employment Insurance is failing the middle class.
Unfair eligibility rules, insufficient benefits and the two-week waiting period are making things tough for many of the 300,000 Canadians thrown out of work since the last federal election. As few as 40 per cent of workers, and just three in 10 women, qualify for EI. Many miss out even if they've been paying in for years.
Stephen Harper's latest budget did nothing to fix those problems. Workers need help now far more than an extra five weeks at the end of the benefit period. By refusing to take seriously the flaws in EI, Stephen Harper is failing the middle class Canadians who are the backbone of this country.
EI is meant to be insurance against losing your job, so that the sudden closure of your tech firm, call centre or factory doesn't reduce your family to poverty right away. It's supposed to bridge the gap between being laid off and finding new work. It's not a hand-out - it's your insurance. Workers usually stay on EI for around 20 weeks.
EI is good for the economy, too. Layoffs don't stop middle-class families from needing to spend money on food and other essentials. EI means that money keeps going into local economies. Think of it as reducing the ripples in the pond when a rock is thrown in. EI should keep economies afloat, so that job losses don't simply lead to more and more job losses.
New Democrats want to give middle-class Canadians a fair deal under EI. With the support of the other opposition parties, we recently passed a motion calling on the Harper government to fix EI by:
  • Lowering the hours worked needed to qualify and make them the same in every province.
  • Allowing self-employed workers to participate in the program.
  • Raising the wage replacement rate from 55 per cent to 60 per cent. - Eliminating the two-week waiting period to start receiving benefits.
  • Making it easier for workers to get training.
These are sensible reforms that will help middle-class Canadians now, by reducing the impact of job losses on the economy and keeping families afloat in difficult times. We are calling on the prime minister to enforce these changes. Demand fair access to your Employment Insurance when you need it.

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention
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twitter: davidmurray4ndp

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