OTTAWA—Canada’s unions are urging the federal government to extend emergency benefits to help workers and their families still struggling through the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s recent Labour Force Survey showed that nearly one and a half million people are still looking for work and total hours worked still lag well below pre-pandemic levels.
“Behind the headlines, the recent Labour Force report revealed some troubling facts. Nearly 250,000 people have been out of work for a year or longer. Many have exhausted their EI claims and have nowhere else to turn,” warned Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “The end of the pandemic is in sight, but the recovery is still just beginning. Canada’s unions have been demanding a recovery with workers at the centre, and that starts with extending these vital benefits.”
Despite 750,000 people still relying on the help, the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) is set to expire on October 23, 2021.
“It’s no surprise the conservative media and some businesses are demanding an end to emergency benefits – even while they are still asking for government handouts for themselves,” said Bruske. “What is shocking is that the government might declare ‘mission accomplished’ and end this vital lifeline for hundreds of thousands of jobless and vulnerable workers. If the government abandons these workers now, many will struggle for years to come.”
Bruske added that after CRB emergency help is extended, Parliament must get back to work on the other critical elements of a worker-centred recovery. This includes raising the minimum wage; enacting fair scheduling laws; increasing and permanently fixing EI and paid sick leave; extending employment standards to gig economy workers; outlawing pay discrimination against part-time employees; and strengthening workers’ voices by providing a path to unionization.
“Canada’s unions will engage our new Parliament and demand MPs choose an economy that is more equitable, more inclusive, more sustainable, and where lost jobs are replaced with better ones,” concluded Bruske.
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