"Keep your promises," say laid-off workers: Ontario's Second Career training
program in doubt, while federal EI training programs don't meet expectations

TORONTO, Oct. 27 /CNW/ - OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas will join private sector unions as well as laid off workers to call on the provincial and federal governments to keep their word and to ensure that those who were promised training get it.

    
    DATE:        Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    TIME:        1:00 pm

    LOCATION:    Toronto Steelworkers Action Centre
                 4th floor, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto
                 (one-block south and one block east of College and Spadina)

    Unemployed workers will be on hand to explain the real impact of
government decisions to restrict access to the Ontario government's Second
Career program.
    In addition to laid-off workers, the following labour leaders will be
present:

    -   Terry Downey, Executive Vice President, Ontario Federation of Labour
    -   Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, Ontario Public Service Employees
        Union
    -   Ken Lewenza, President, Canadian Auto Workers
    -   Gord Falconer, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
        Workers
    

BACKGROUND

Unemployed workers may be denied access to a provincial program that promised unemployed workers a second chance with training for a new career. Under the program, workers are eligible for up to $28,000 over two years to enrol in full-time training. But, according to the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), a surge in take-up rates has put current and future access to the provincial program in jeopardy, while strict eligibility criteria for the federal pilot projects has made them inaccessible for most.

According to the OFL, dozens of unemployed workers who have re-organized their lives and secured their necessary upgrading, have been put on hold and may be denied access to the program altogether, even though they meet all aspects of the eligibility criteria currently set out for the program.

The Ontario Second Career Program was launched in June 2008, and was aimed at workers affected by job loss prior to the onset of the global recession. In the five years leading up to October 2008, Canada had already lost some 400,000 manufacturing and forestry sector jobs. With the onset of the global crisis, Canada lost an additional 400,000 jobs-in only four months.

In the meantime, the federal pilot programs extending retraining benefits to long-tenured workers are only available to those with claims activated between January 25, 2009 and May 30, 2010, closing the door to the thousands of workers who need retraining, but who were laid off before January 25, 2009. As a consequence, the federal program is only assisting a fraction of those in need.

Workers in Ontario want the provincial and federal governments to keep their promises:

    
    1.  Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan must release adequate funds to
        ensure:
        a. That all those who are currently in line for the Second Career
           program are processed using program's original, eligibility
           criteria;
        b. That the funding include adequate income support no less than that
           provided under Employment Insurance; and
        c. That staffing levels are increased immediately to expedite
           application processing.

    2.  The federal government must move immediately to:
        a. Increase the number of workers who get Employment Insurance while
           re-training.
        b. Relax eligibility restrictions on its Severance Investment for
           Training Initiative (SITI) and Extended EI & Training Incentive
           (EEITI) pilot projects.
        c. Increase the transfer payments it has committed to the provinces
           under the respective Labour Market Agreements
    

SOURCE OPSEU

For further information: For further information: Sheila Keenan, OFL Communications Director, (416) 443-7665 (direct line); Mike Belmore, OFL Communications Department, (416) 443-7658 (direct line)


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