Condemn Governments Which Do Not Treat
Unemployed Workers with Dignity and Respect

A Livelihood for All Unemployed Workers!

For the period of the federal election, workers, organizations in defence of the unemployed and unions in Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are stepping up the fight for a pro-social reform of the Employment Insurance (EI) regime. They formed a coalition to organize actions during the federal election and after in defence of the rights of the unemployed.

Among other things, the pandemic has laid bare the effects of more than three decades of the anti-social offensive carried out by neo-liberal governments which has wrecked the prior already inadequate Employment Insurance regime. Over these years, successive governments have integrated the fund with general revenues where they are made available for pay-the-rich schemes. They have lowered the amount of benefits received and reduced the eligibility of workers for EI benefits to such an extent that today only about 40 per cent of the unemployed can access EI. It has deliberately been made extremely difficult, if not impossible, for part-time, precarious, seasonal, so called self-employed, migrant workers, and many others to access EI. At the same time, the amount paid and the duration of benefits have been reduced through all kinds of schemes, making the benefits insufficient to enable workers on EI to live a life in dignity. Fending for oneself has become the norm of EI under the anti-social offensive, negating people’s rights and harming them deeply.

The COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the destruction of EI and its inability to deal with the massive loss of jobs that occurred during the peak of the crisis in a manner that could sustain a proper standard of living for the unemployed. Of the emergency measures put in place, many were actually devised to sustain and increase the profits of private companies during the crisis. In regard to the EI regime, eligibility criteria were substantially relaxed, with the threshold of hours of work needed to be eligible lowered and the duration of the benefit period extended. The number of people receiving EI benefits increased.

Those special EI measures are coming to an end at the end of September. Public relations double-talk by government, media and spokespersons of the monopolies, according to which we must get back to "normal," is accompanied with warnings that keeping "generous social programs" in place will jeopardize "the post-pandemic recovery," create more "disincentives for recipients to go to work" and  increase the "shortage of labour." It is cruelly anti-people. It is increasingly the anxiety felt by many who can exercise no control over their lives.

Workers reject this anti-worker and anti-social propaganda with utter contempt. Going back to "normal" and "business as usual" is a return to the nightmare of wrecked social programs and the inability of society to face crises such as the pandemic and jobs crisis which is the result of the restructuring of the economy and treatment of workers as disposable. Workers are defending the rights that belong to them as producers of the wealth of society on which they have a claim, and as human beings who are entitled to a dignified life.

Workers are gearing up to make sure the so-called post-pandemic recovery is not used to block a human-centred alternative that affirms the rights and dignity of all. They are fighting to open a path to a new direction for the economy and for all the affairs of society. Going back to "business as usual" is the last thing Canadians want and the last thing society can afford.

All Out To Defend the Rights and Dignity of All Unemployed Workers!

This article was published in

 August 27, 2021 - No. 75

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