Union calls on Ottawa to pass emergency financial measures for workers affected by COVID-19

Says Ottawa has stalled too long on EI reform

TORONTO – Unifor is calling on MPs to use the special Tuesday Parliamentary session to move quickly on reform and pass emergency measures to ensure all workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have a reliable, decent paycheque.

“We are facing a crisis of catastrophic proportions that requires fast action from government,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

“Despite promising first steps, federal progress on worker supports has stalled and I’m afraid our opportunity for quick action may have passed.”

Unifor is calling on Parliament to pass emergency measures on Tuesday to expedite the delivery of paycheques to displaced working families, through whatever means necessary, including via existing employer payroll systems or direct payments to households. 

“Canada’s workers were feeling the squeeze before they were forced out of a job by this pandemic. Without a dramatic change of tack, in a few more days laid-off workers will be left with empty cupboards and bare dinner tables,” said Dias.

In December of last year, a survey by MNP found that nearly half of Canadians were $200 or less away from financial insolvency. Federal funding announcements to date have not addressed the immediate need of Canadian families to cover necessities.

Two-thirds of the of the federal support package announced by government on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 is not income support but will instead be delivered in tax deferrals to business and individuals, while new income support programs for those who do not qualify for E.I. will take weeks to even begin accepting applications.

“Last week, more than 500,000 individual E.I. claims were filed and there is no reason to expect that number to slow down,” said Lana Payne, Unifor Secretary-Treasurer. “Millions more will have their work interrupted by this pandemic. The E.I. system, once overwhelmed, is now completely under water.”

Canada sits on the lower end of the spectrum as governments around the world such as New Zealand, Sweden, and America have already pledged four to six per cent of GDP towards immediate fiscal support. Canada should consider adopting creative solutions as the UK has done in pledging income replacement to be paid out to businesses that keep employees on payroll instead of forcing layoffs.

“Members of Parliament need to be prepared to make an immediate decision about how they plan to fund income replacement for Canada’s workers tomorrow. If the E.I. system cannot handle these claims in a timely way, an immediate and temporary alternative is needed to ensure hardworking Canadian families do not fall into financial ruin,” continued Dias.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.

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