Stunning EI Statistics Must Prompt Swift Action by Government, CAW Says

February 24, 2009, 2:40 PM EST

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CAW President Ken Lewenza said the federal government must act swiftly to extend coverage of Unemployment Insurance (EI) benefits after recent labour market statistics show a dramatic increase in Canadians filing for benefit claims in December.

Statistics Canada figures released today show a 38 per cent increase in Canadians who have filed initial and renewal EI benefit claims from November to December. This number of filings in December is one of the largest monthly totals in recorded history, and the largest since January 1992.

The CAW is calling on the federal government to make the five-week EI benefit extension retroactive to December 2008 in order to provide more sweeping coverage for individuals who have had their benefits exhausted.  Additionally, the CAW is calling for an emergency extension of EI benefits for up to one year paid by the federal government, and access for workers with part-time and temporary jobs that cannot receive EI benefits.

"Today's EI figures should send shockwaves across Parliament Hill and prompt the government to fundamentally rethink their budget proposals for EI," Lewenza said. "Canadians won't accept the government's half-hearted approach to improving access to EI."

The most recent EI figures supplied by Statistics Canada are from December 2008, a two-and-a-half month lag time that should also raise flags for government policy makers, Lewenza said.

Lewenza is encouraging the federal government to examine EI reporting systems in other countries, like the United States, who publicly report employment insurance coverage and exhaustion rates on a weekly basis.

"Learning about the EI challenges Canadians face two months after the fact paints an incomplete picture of the problem," said Lewenza. "How can we properly monitor EI coverage to better improve access for women, young people, immigrant workers and other vulnerable groups, when we're always looking far into the past?"

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