EI Day of Action rally taking place in Windsor

A rally in Windsor is asking the federal government to extend temporary measures for employment insurance benefits.

The ‘EI Day of Action’ is on Monday. The event is planned in front of Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk’s office at 9733 Tecumseh Road E from 11 am to 12 pm

The goal of the rally is to also ensure migrant workers have access to EI, improve the weekly benefit rate including a guaranteed weekly minimum, set a universal 360-hour or 12-week qualifying rule for up to 50 weeks of income support, end some disqualification rules and more.

President of Uniform Local 195 Emile Nabbout said Syncreon workers have been under lots of pressure in the last two and a half years.

“Where is their commitment” Nabbout said. “To reform EI? Fix it permanently? Or are they going to continue to be wishy-washy and not taking necessary changes.”

Nabbout continued, “we believe if you contribute into a system, they should have some reward back. Either you take them out of the system or one day, if they contribute in the system, they should be at least utilize the benefit they pay for for a longer period of time.”

He said, “We all know the inflation is rising. We all know that the community being impacted. Everything, the grocery prices went up and yet we have an EI supposed to provide for workers when there is an interruption to their income. But yet, our government is still not taking the necessary steps to make sure when you have an interruption to your income, that system needs to be providing you with a temporary income till you return back to the workforce.”

Unifor National national representative Erin Harrison said, “Permanent EI reforms need to take place to increase access, increase benefits, do all those different things for a system that workers and employers pay into.”

Harrison explained, “The COVID pandemic really showed that when workers needed the system the most it wasn’t there for them. They weren’t actually able to access a system that they were paying into. One of the biggest things that we’re asking for is that we actually reduce the qualifying hours to a universal 360 hours.”

Harrison said, “In Windsor versus the county you actually have two different qualifying hours depending on where you live. Even though workers may work at the same workplace. It depends on where you live, how many hours you actually need to qualify to access a system, which just seems wrong. We’re advocating that we actually standardize the entrance requirements and the number of hours needed. So no matter where you live, it’s the same for everyone across the country.”

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk’s office was closed Monday for the holiday’s but he did tell CTV News arrangements are being made with local union representatives to have a town hall meeting in the near future to address the matter.

“EI modernization is absolutely a top priority,” Kusmierczyk said. “The last year and a half our government has been leading round tables and discussions and consultations on this very issue.”

Kusmierczyk said the government plans to release a plan in the new year about how it will put forward modernization plans, noting a series of 30 roundtable discussions have already taken place in other parts of the country. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/reports/consultations-what-we-heard-phase1.html

“It’s been a really intense consultation, a really intense process and modernizing EI’s absolutely a priority for me and for this government.” The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion added, “The timing is perfect, I want to hear from them.”

Kusmierczyk said that goal is to bring forward and begin implementing a plan to modernize the EI system for the 21st century while building a stronger and more inclusive system that covers all workers, including workers in seasonal employment and persons employed by digital platforms, ensuring the system is simpler and more responsive for workers and employers.

He noted in addition to moving forward with extending EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks, the plan will include:

  • A new EI benefit for self-employed Canadians that would provide unemployment assistance comparable to EI and lasting for as many as 26 weeks;

  • A new 15-week benefit for adoptive parents;

  • A new EI Career Insurance Benefit to provide long-tenured workers who have lost their job with additional income support while they reintegrate into the labor market; other

  • Consideration of the realities of artists and cultural workers.

Nabbout says the issue of EI has been in their focus for a long time.

He says now is the best opportunity to resolve the issue.

“Right now is the golden opportunity because we have a minority government and we have political parties who are willing to make a necessary change. We believe there is an immediate need to fix EI, the system is broken.”

Nabbout says this is an issue locally, in the province, and nationwide.

“We are not going to take anything away from the federal government, they have made a slight improvement to the EI system by improving the sick leave from 15 weeks to 26 weeks and there have been quite a few changes to the EI system overall, but it’s not enough, it’s not what we are looking for.”

With files from CTV Chris Campbell.

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