Federal budget fails to end EI discrimination against Albertans - only 1 in 5 eligible for benefits



    
    AFL urges Ignatieff and Layton to demand amendments that would stop
    discrimination against workers who lose jobs in the West
    

    EDMONTON, Jan. 28 /CNW/ - Stephen Harper may represent an Alberta riding,
but he certainly wasn't thinking of the growing number of unemployed people in
his home province when he and his cabinet crafted yesterday's federal budget.
    "Prime Minister Harper and his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty talked a
good game about helping Canadians weather the recession that's unfolding
across the country," says Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan.
    "But they failed to take any steps to address the fact that only about 22
percent of unemployed people in Alberta are currently eligible for EI benefits
- the lowest eligibility rate in the country. Unless the eligibility rules are
loosened, there are going to be a lot of unemployed Albertans who won't get
the benefits they've paid for - and which they will desperately need to keep a
roof over their heads and food on the table."
    Under the current system, EI eligibility is calculated using a complex
formula that factors in the prevailing unemployment rate in a given province:
the lower the rate, the longer people have to work to qualify for benefits. As
a result, an Albertan has to work 720 hours before becoming eligible for EI
benefits, while people in some Maritime provinces have to work as few as 420
hours.
    "The logic behind this system is supposed to be that it would be easier
for an unemployed worker in a province like Alberta to find a job than someone
in a province like New Brunswick," says McGowan.
    "But with a recession that's clearly global in nature, it's not going to
be easy to find a job anywhere. The bottom line for us is that a lost job is a
lost job, no matter where it is lost. No matter where a laid-off worker is
from, he's going to face the same cash crisis. That's why we're so
disappointed the budget didn't end the discrimination between regions."
    The problem caused by the EI system's complex eligibility rules is
particularly serious for young workers, contract workers and part-timers - who
have a harder time stringing enough work hours together.
    McGowan says that improved eligibility rules - and increased benefit
maximums - wouldn't only be good news for individual Canadians: they would
also be good news for the broader economy.
    "When you put money into the pockets of unemployed workers, you can be
guaranteed that money will be spent right away in the communities where they
live," says McGowan. "And that's exactly what our economy needs. You can't say
the same thing for either tax cuts - which people may simply stash in their
mattresses - or infrastructure spending - which could take months to roll
out."
    McGowan says he will be writing letters to both Liberal leader Michael
Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton, urging them to demand amendments to the
federal budget that end the discrimination against workers who lose their jobs
in Alberta and other western provinces.
    "Both Ignatieff and Layton have said they want to work more closely with
and win the trust of western voters," says McGowan. "Here's their chance."

    
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Percentage of Unemployed receiving EI Benefits, October 2008
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                               Number of
                           beneficiaries
                               receiving
                                 regular     Unemployed by      % Unemployed
                                benefits          Province,        receiving
                            October 2008      October 2008  regular benefits
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   Seasonally adjusted
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Canada                        485190           1139700            42.57%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Newfoundland and Labrador      36110             34600           104.36%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Prince Edward Island            7860              9100            86.37%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Nova Scotia                    27400             37200            73.66%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    New Brunswick                  29520             35700            82.69%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Quebec                        155430            301500            51.55%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Ontario                       149440            471400            31.70%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Manitoba                       10490             27400            38.28%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Saskatchewan                    8300             21500            38.60%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Alberta                        17160             78300            21.92%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    British Columbia               43480            123000            35.35%
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sources:
            http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/081219/t081219c2-eng.htm
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
            http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/71-001-x/2008010/6100035-eng.htm
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    





For further information:

For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President, (780) 483-3021
(office) or (780) 218-9888 (cell)

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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FEDERAL BUDGET 2009

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