Canada’s unions are calling for urgent fiscal measures to respond to COVID-19

March 16, 2020

Canada’s unions are calling on all levels of government to provide adequate supports for workers and their families as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reverberate in communities and throughout the economy.

“We continue to share our recommendations with the federal government as this situation progresses. While there has been an important move in easing measures around Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, the government will need to go much further to protect the most vulnerable,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

After decades of cuts, Canada’s unemployment safety net is wholly inadequate and paid sick leave policies across the country are insufficient.

In 2018, only 33 per cent of unemployed women and 38 per cent of unemployed men received EI benefits. Seasonal workers, those with precarious employment and the self-employed are most vulnerable and will require urgent support.

“While we acknowledge the important measures all levels of governments are taking to ease the burden on the business community to help save jobs in the private sector, more must be done to assist front-line workers in health care fields who are vital in the fight against COVID-19,” said Yussuff.

Further, CLC urges the federal government to:

  • Reduce the entry requirement for EI regular and sickness benefits;
  • Immediately increase the current benefit rate from 55 per cent to 60 per cent;
  • Establish an emergency benefit with a low minimum contribution requirement to support otherwise ineligible workers;
  • Implement regulations to waive the requirement that claimants obtain a doctor’s note if they require quarantine;
  • Make additional government funds available to provide special income relief for health sector workers who may be subject to quarantine or who become sick;
  • Instruct utilities, banks, landlords, credit card companies and financial institutions to extend and relax mortgage, rent and bill payment requirements, loan servicing obligations, and other responsibilities facing consumers and households;
  • Work with First Ministers to declare that no one be fired for self-quarantining or recovering from infection, and that if a worker loses their job for these reasons, they will be reinstated;
  • Double the GST/HST credit to provide income support to low-income Canadians; and
  • Increase the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) paid to low- and modest-income families.

“Single and vulnerable parents living paycheck to paycheck are going to struggle to pay rent and utilities if they have to scale back hours and turn down shifts to deal with the child care crisis. We know that these measures will disproportionately affect women.

“All across Canada, working people have been listening to public health authorities and doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19—it is now time for Canada to support them.”

Read more: Supporting workers in a time of crisis — Key steps for governments and employers.

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