Forest Unions Call for EI Changes and Urgent Action to Assist Unemployed

TORONTO, March 22 /CNW/ - Canada's two major forest sector unions are calling for immediate changes to EI rules and "urgent coordinated action" by all levels of governments to provide assistance for displaced forest workers.

The United Steelworkers (USW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) responded today to the release of a report by the business-labour Forest Products Sector Council which reported 100,000 job losses in the sector over 5 years and an estimated 40,000 forest workers still unemployed.

"This report will shock Canadians with the scale of the economic disaster and the conclusion that many workers cannot access the help they deserve because of our EI rules," said Dave Coles, president of the CEP. "If this government is listening to the joint recommendations of the forest companies and unions it must immediately change the EI rules to provide access to training and support programs for displaced forest workers."

The forest unions contend that the response from governments failed to meet the scale of the economic collapse, and that the transition programs that have been made available lacked clear information and coordination between the federal and provincial governments.

"This is not a wakeup call," said USW National Director Ken Neumann, "governments have already overslept their alarm clocks by almost three years. We're calling for real, determined action and funding now, as well as much improved coordination, so that we can make a difference for thousands of forest workers who still need help."

Coles and Neumann said that the forest unions fully support all of the joint recommendations in the report released today, titled Challenges and Impacts: Labour Market Transition Programs for Laid-Off Forest Products Workers in Canada. (www.fpsc-cspf.ca)

    
    The report's recommendations include:
    -  Better information on transition programs to be made available.
    -  Eligibility for training programs to be extended to all displaced
       forest workers regardless of EI status.
    -  Establishment of regional crisis committees where significant layoffs
       have occurred.
    -  Support for local action centres to help displaced forest workers.
    -  Greater recognition for prior learning and placement in training
       programs.
    -  Community development programs to allow displaced workers to remain in
       their communities.
    -  Incentives and funding for employers for training and avoiding
       layoffs.
    

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Dave Coles, (613) 299-5628; Ken Neumann, (416) 544-5951


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