Friday, May 25, 2012

Conservative government imposes stricter rules on recipients of unemployment benefits

The Conservative government has been cutting away at government services and the social safety under the universal mantra of cutting deficits. Of course the Stephen Harper government would not think of raising taxes on corporations or the rich as a way of cutting the deficit but the unemployed are fair game.

The new rules will make it particularly difficult for frequent users of EI (Employment Insurance). The announcement of the changes were made yesterday by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

The new rules require that EI recipients must accept job openings that are an hour or even further away the distance being based upon regional commuter patterns. Toronto was given as an example where even longer commutes could be expected.

Language in the existing bill that set out conditions under which recipients could refuse a job as not suitable has been removed and new stricter rules put in their place. In the new regulations there are three tiers of EI recipients. The longer that recipients are on EI the broader their job searches must be and the lower the salaries they must accept.

The third category of recipients are termed frequent users who have collected 60 or more weeks benefits in the last five years. At present 58 per cent of recipients fall within this group. Frequent recipients will only have six weeks to find a job in a "similar occupation" at at least 80 percent of pay. After that the applicant must accept any job the applicant is qualified to perform (or can be trained for) at 70 per cent of former earnings or more. So recipients must accept up to a 30 per cent pay cut or lose benefits. The new regulations will particularly hurt Canada's maritime provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador where many communities have workers involved in seasonal activities such as fishing. During the off season these workers have depended upon EI to support them until the following season. Most rural coastal communities face the same situation so it would be difficult to find work nearby. The provinces most hurt are quite angry since they were not consulted about changes. For more see this article.

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