Harper's New EI Plan is "Crumbs" For the Unemployed, CAW President Says

September 16, 2009, 10:09 AM EST

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The Harper government's new EI plan provides crumbs to unemployed Canadians at a time when they are in need of a full loaf of bread, said CAW President Ken Lewenza. 

Lewenza was reacting to the Harper government's proposal for EI reform released earlier this week and slated to be introduced in Parliament later today.

The government's proposal for additional weeks of EI for longer service workers will not help the vast majority of the country's 1.6 million unemployed, including many CAW members, Lewenza said. Currently, only half of those people are receiving EI benefits.

Under the plan, workers who have received more than 35 weeks of EI over the past five years would not receive additional EI benefits.

"That's discriminatory," said Lewenza. "It's no easier for someone who was previously laid off for 40 weeks to find a job than someone who was laid off for 20 weeks. When you're unemployed, you're unemployed."

Lewenza also said that the Harper government's plan is only temporary.  

 "We need genuine reforms that fix the EI Hours System so that more workers qualify for benefits and those who do qualify get benefits for a longer period of time, at a decent benefit rate. The measures introduced by the Harper government won't do that."

CAW action centres for laid off workers are reporting that existing EI programs for long tenured workers introduced earlier this year by the Harper government are not reaching the vast majority of unemployed Canadians.

"There's no reason to expect these new reforms will work any better," Lewenza said.

CAW National Representative Laurell Ritchie, an expert on EI policy, is available to answer questions regarding the Harper government proposal and can provide further comment immediately following the bill's presentation in the House of Commons.  

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