Rallies against the scrapping of the Employment Insurance Board of Referees occurred across the province of New Brunswick today, Friday, April 5th, in Moncton, Fredericton, Sussex, Saint John and Miramichi. In Fredericton, a New Orleans funeral procession to the death of the EI Board of Referees followed by Democracy’s coffin travelled down a downtown street Fredericton to Service Canada where a vigil was held.
A statement by the Scrap the EI Changes Committee read:
On April 1st, the Canadian Employment Insurance Board of Referees ceased to exist. After 65 years in existence, one of the most efficient and democratic level of appeal has fallen under the axe of the Federal government. Our eight Members of Parliament had their hands on this axe and should be ashamed of their action.
It is a very sad day indeed for thousands of unemployed workers who each year were using the service of those boards We have to remember that in 2010-2011 more than 26,000 appeals were heard by these boards all across Canada. Close to 1,000 appeals were done in New Brunswick.
The EI Board of referees were composed of 900 part time members all trough Canada. Each board had one member representing workers, one representing employers and a chair nominated by the Federal government. In New Brunswick, five of these boards were in action, Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Edmundston and Bathurst. Workers were able to meet the board and explain their case personally.
These members were from the region so they were well aware of the economic and social conditions of their communities. The hearings were informal and were done in such a way as to not be bureaucratic.
The EI Board of Referees has been replaced by a Social Security Tribunal. This Tribunal will deal with Employment Insurance, Canadian Pension Plan and Old Age Security. It will be composed of 74 full-time members, half will deal with Employment Insurance, been paid between $90,800 and $107,900 a year.
One of the major problems is that the two stakeholders, workers and employers, have been completely removed from this new Tribunal. We are left with bureaucrats who will be taking decision affecting the livelihood of thousands of workers and their family without even hearing the unemployed worker making the appeal.
The new Tribunal is not something the workers or employers asked for. Both stakeholders were very content with the EI Board of Referees. We can predict that the new tribunal will be less accessible, more unjust and certainly less democratic than the EI Board of referees.
It is indeed a sad day for democracy.