France Simard, Coordinator of the Unemployment Action Movement, Lac Saint-Jean
Action in Saguenay, June 30, 2021
Workers' Forum: Has
the launching of the federal
election had an impact on your campaign for a just and universal
employment insurance (EI) regime?
Simard: The pandemic has shown how outdated the
employment insurance regime is. There must be an in-depth reform of the
system. We are participating in a campaign as a member of the MASSE,
the Autonomous and Solidarity Movement of the Unemployed. Our demands
are simple and clear, except that with the
elections we have many questions. The federal government had set up a
consultation in the summer, but we have been telling them for years
that the system is not working. So why do a consultation instead of
getting to work, sitting down together, working together on something
concrete? They put a survey online. As for the rest, everything is
stopped, everything is on the back burner in the context of the
election. We have submitted briefs to the minister and to the Standing
Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the
Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA). Will all this be shelved
and will we have to start all over with a new government?
What are the demands of the MASSE campaign?
Our first demand is a single eligibility threshold
of 350 hours or 13 weeks. We don't want those who work part-time not to
be eligible for EI. We want to include everyone in the EI system. The
second demand is a benefit rate of at least 70 per cent of insurable
earnings, based on the best 12 weeks of work, instead of the
pre-pandemic rate of 55 per cent of earnings based on a number of weeks
that can vary between 14 and 22 to determine the best weeks. The third
demand is a minimum floor of 35 weeks of benefits. We know that
seasonal workers find themselves in a black hole that is getting bigger
and more problematic. Seasonal industries exist everywhere in
Canada and governments must finally address this particular situation.
It is not the workers who are seasonal but the job that is seasonal. We
need a floor of 35 weeks of minimum benefits for all. With this floor
we would eliminate the black hole.
We are still
asking for the abolition of total exclusions. If a
worker voluntarily leaves his or her job or is fired, we want the
system to protect them too. Total exclusion from EI benefits for these
workers is an extreme measure, and that is what is happening now.
The fifth is access to regular unemployment insurance benefits
the event of job loss for those who have received maternity and
parental benefits. Women who have just given birth and who lose their
job while on maternity leave and receiving benefits under the Quebec
Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), or immediately afterwards, are not
entitled to EI. If they lose their job it is not their fault. This is
discrimination against parents, mostly women but men as well because
there are men who take parental leave.
It is high
time to establish a just and universal employment
insurance system. In my work, I pay a great deal of attention to the
self-employed, or should I say the so-called self-employed. They face a
lot of difficulties. On the one hand they are told that their job is
insurable, based on a long questionnaire that looks at who decides
what investment they have in the business, etc. Based on that, they
have to pay into the system. Then, when they are out of work they are
denied EI because they are self-employed. We have a lot of workers in
this situation in the region.
We need to move
forward and with the election coming up we are
wondering if we are going to have to start all over again. We are stuck
with an eternal beginning, with each change of government, or a new
minister who does not know the file, etc.
We need a
just and universal EI system that is there to help people, not harm
This article was published in
August 27, 2021 -