Community and labour groups upset over changes to employment insurance are planning to bring their concerns to National Revenue Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea’s doorstep when they rally at her office this weekend.
The groups are calling for the federal government to scrap recent changes to allowable part-time earnings for EI claimants. These changes will hurt seasonal industries as well as part-time workers, said Lori MacKay, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in P.E.I. (CUPE).
“Not only will these EI changes hurt the local economy, but the quality of public services available to Islanders will also be affected,” MacKay said.
“I am hard pressed to think of a public service or industry on P.E.I. which does not rely on part-time and seasonal workers, and in turn those part-time seasonal workers rely, at least in part, on EI to make ends meet every year.”
The issue stems from a new pilot project implemented this summer that sees 50 cents of every dollar earned by EI claimants working part-time clawed back by the feds.
This replaces the previous Working While on Claim program, which allowed EI claimants to earn up to $75 a week or 40 per cent of their employment insurance, whichever was higher, without any clawback.
Earlier this month, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley backpedaled slightly on this change, allowing the choice to revert to the previous rules for anyone who filed a claim between Aug. 7, 2011 and Aug. 5, 2012.
Anyone who filed for EI before or after these dates will only be considered under the new Working While on Claim rules.
Concerned Islanders say this doesn’t go far enough and want the new rules abandoned entirely.
Representatives from local unions and political groups, including the P.E.I. NDP Charlottetown MP Sean Casey’s office, held a joint news conference today to voice their concerns over EI changes.
They plan to bus concerned Islanders to Summerside this Saturday for a rally in front of Shea’s office to bring their concerns directly to the MP responsible for P.E.I. at the federal cabinet table.
“The current changes will create great hardship for people who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Bill Kays, a member of the Coalition for Poverty Eradication Strategy and a small business owner.
Roger Byers, a Charlottetown municipal worker and member of CUPE Local 501 said he is making less as a result of the recent changes.
“I am working at the same capacity and receiving 50 per cent less. The situation is bleak for lots, me included.”
Buses will be available for Islanders to travel to the rally in several communities across the province, including stops in Souris, Morrell, Mount Stewart, Montague, Pools Corner, Stratford, Cornwall, Charlottetown, Hunter River, Kensington, Tignish, O’Leary, and Wellington.