Dramatic jump in Alberta jobless rate underlines need for much quicker action on EI reform, says AFL

    Premiers should demand an end to federal dithering on efforts to fix
    Canada's broken unemployment insurance system, say labour leaders

    REGINA, Aug. 7 /CNW/ - As Alberta's unemployment rate soars to levels not
seen since the recession of the early 90s, the need for fundamental reform to
Canada's Employment Insurance system becomes even clearer and more urgent,
says the leader of Alberta's largest labour organization.
    "Albertans are losing jobs at a faster pace than workers in most other
provinces," says Gil McGowan. "But the system that is supposed to provide a
safety net is failing us miserably. Only about 40 per cent of Alberta's
unemployed are getting EI benefits - the lowest rate in the country. And even
when Albertans do receive benefits, they're eligible for fewer weeks than
workers in other provinces. This kind of discrimination needs to end."
    McGowan and other labour federation leaders are in Regina this week to
lobby the Ed Stelmach and other provincial and territorial premiers as they
gather for their annual premiers meeting.
    The labour leaders' campaign for EI reform took on an increased sense of
urgency today as the latest official unemployment numbers were released.
    Figures released this morning by Statistics Canada show that Alberta lost
another 9,300 jobs in July, bringing the province's total of net-jobs lost
since October 2008 to 75,600. As a result, Alberta's official unemployment
rate has jumped to 7.2 - the highest it's been since 1995.
    Alberta actually lost 11,900 full-time jobs in July - but this was offset
somewhat by an increase in precarious part-time work. The province's
unemployment rate has now nearly doubled in the past 8 months (from 3.7
percent in October 2008 to 7.2 percent today).
    "The employment picture in Alberta is more dismal than it's been in years
- and despite happy talk from politicians and business leaders, it's
continuing to get worse," says McGowan. "That's why we're calling on the
premiers and federal government to fix our country's broken EI system
immediately. Unemployed workers need help now, not six months or a year from
    The AFL, other provincial and territorial labour federations and the
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) are calling for a uniform system of EI
eligibility to replace the current system that requires people to work
different numbers of hours to qualify for benefits depending on which region
of the country they live in. The labour movement is also calling for increases
to benefit levels and to the length of time that unemployed workers can
collect benefits.
    "It shouldn't matter if Canadians lose their jobs in Calgary or Cape
Breton - people who have lost their jobs should get the unemployment benefits
they've paid for," says McGowan. "The best way to help Canadians weather this
economic storm and boost the broader economy is to put money in the pockets of
those who have lost their jobs. That's why we need EI reform now. The system
isn't delivering on its promise - and Canadians are suffering needlessly as a

For further information:

For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 218-9888

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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