SUMMERSIDE :Today marks the 64th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for protection against unemployment (Article 23.1) and the right to security in the event of unemployment (Article 25.1). Community and labour groups are participating in a Day of Action to highlight this anniversary. Cans of beans will be delivered to Minister Gail Shea’s office in protest of the insensitive employment insurance cuts by the Conservative Federal government.
The cans of beans symbolize future hardships that many Islanders will face this winter when the EI cuts will be fully realized. The Federal government is in the process of tearing down a system built to provide for the financial security of workers in the event that they lose their jobs. These changes will diminish financial security.
Paulette Houpla, EI recipient understood the 50% rule was supposed to help people but it’s certainly not working for her; “Recently, I’ve started working an extra hour a day but my EI check is $50 dollars less than it used to be,” says Houpla, “I’ve been working extra shifts and extra hours but in the end there’s no extra money. How is that helpful?”
The recent employment insurance changes affecting workers across Canada will have the strongest impact in the country’s east. For workers in the Atlantic provinces, these reforms are catastrophic because their impact will be hardest on the thousands of workers in seasonal industries such as fishing, forestry, construction and tourism, including a high proportion of women. Prince Edward Island has many workers relying on employment insurance mainly during the winter months. However, PEI can boast the second highest employment rates in Canada during the busy season.
“The Federal government does not understand our way of life and their policies just do not work here. I don’t know if they are trying to change our way of life or if they just don’t care,” states Robert Gallant business owner. “The loss of the five week bridge is going to be devastating for many people. Our communities and our local economy are going to feel the impacts of the changes to the EI program.”
“Islanders are proud to work when work is available. It doesn’t matter if you work in the private sector or the public sector, if these changes are not affecting you then they’re affecting someone you know,” adds Roger Byers CUPE municipal worker. “How can we spend any extra money in our local stores if we can’t even afford the necessities for ourselves and our families? More and more people are telling me about their concerns now that they’re relying on employment insurance again. They’re noticing the changes that have already occurred and it’s especially hard this time of year with Christmas coming.”
The Employment Coalition Group is calling on the Federal government to scrap the changes to the Employment insurance program.