Employment Insurance was the topic of discussion at the offices of six Conservative MPs in New Brunswick on Monday, Dec. 10th, International Human Rights Day.
The Common Front for Social Justice organized the delivery of letters outlining concerns with the cuts to the EI program as well as cans of baked beans. The canned baked beans were given to the MPs to remind them that the cuts to the federal program will force unemployed workers to eat beans this winter.
Each year, member countries of the United Nations celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada has endorsed. For several years now, the Common Front for Social Justice has organized a public event to mark the day.
This year, the Common Front focused on two articles found in the Declaration of Human Rights, namely articles 23 and 25, which state that people have the right to protection against unemployment and the right to security should unemployment occur.
Article 23(1): Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Article 25 (1): Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
One of the most controversial cut backs to the program involve unemployed workers being forced to take jobs that are 100 kilometers away from their home, which is about a one hour drive.
The Common Front notes that workers are also being forced to take salary cuts. Long-tenured workers will have to accept jobs paying as little as 80% of their prior hourly wage. Frequent claimants will have to accept jobs paying up to only 70% of their prior hourly wage. Occasional claimants will have to accept jobs paying only up to 70% of their prior hourly wage.
The Harper government is cancelling a pilot project, which allowed five extra weeks of benefits for 25 regions of high unemployment. New Brunswick is home to two of these regions, Madawaska-Charlotte and Restigouche-Albert.
The Harper government is also replacing the EI Appeal Tribunal, which heard about 26,000 appeals each year, with a Social Security Tribunal. The Common Front feels that the EI Appeal Tribunal was simple and accessible to all. They argue that the new tribunal will mean delays and will be less democratic.
The Common Front notes that the cuts to the EI program that were rolled into Omnibus Bill C-38 did not permit public consultation with workers.
“All of these cuts will be disastrous for the workers in our region, especially for the thousands of people working in seasonal industries such as fishing, forestry, tourism, construction and road building,” writes the Common Front for Social Justice.