Hassan Yussuff, the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, says that Employment Insurance is failing unemployed workers in Canada, and those that pay into the program don’t have enough say about how the money is spent.
Yussuff was commenting on the Supreme Court ruling over the elimination of $57 Billion from the EI Account. The EI fund built up a huge surplus in the late 1990’s when the federal government cut access to benefits. That surplus was then used to help the federal government balance its books. Rather than return the borrowed money to the EI Account, the Conservative government decided to close off the books and permanently transfer the $57 Billion EI surplus into federal government coffers in 2010.
The Supreme Court ruled today that the federal government’s move was constitutional, saying that the money belonged to the government and not EI contributors.
“If more unemployed workers had access to benefits, there would have been no surplus in the first place,” explained Yussuff, “The Employment Insurance program absolutely must be there to support workers when they lose their job through no fault of their own.”
It also seems that history may be repeating itself, as the ruling comes at a time when access to Employment Insurance is at an all time low. Only 37% of the 1.3 million unemployed workers in Canada are receiving EI. Yet the annual surplus in the EI account is forecast to be around $4 Billion for 2014.
“How is it acceptable to be accumulating annual surpluses in the EI account, when 63% of unemployed workers aren’t receiving any benefits?” asks Yussuff, “EI is an important component of our social safety net that is being torn to shreds by this government.”