CBC is reporting of more protests against the changes to EI that will hurt workers and their communities. Employment Insurance is not a federally subsidized service, it is paid for by workers as an insurance scheme. For more information on EI see the following link for the full advisory from CUPE on the EI Changes:
Employment insurance started in 1940 in Canada (then called Unemployment Insurance) and was modeled after the British unemployment system. The insurance system was introduced because of the growing understanding that unemployment was a “natural” process in advanced capitalist economies and therefore not the fault of the individual worker. Modern social, political and economic sciences concluded that, since there was always going to be an unemployment rate above zero, the government should act to mitigate the negative social and economic impacts on workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
Growing public pressure on government lead to the establishment of a worker and employer funde dpublic insurance program that would pay an income to those that had become unemployed. The system would also operate to help those unemployed find work in their field. A program that made sure that there was a close match between an individual’s skills and their work increased productivity in the economy and limited hardship on the unemployed worker.
Since the system was funded by workers, appeals panels included worker representatives.
For decades after its introduction, unions fought for an expansion of EI to cover other instances of unemployment that were no fault of the worker or benefited society such as maternity/paternity, parental, compassionate and sick leave. EI was also expanded to cover sectors that had regular cycles of employment and unemployment such as fishing and farming.
The first government attacks on the unemployment insurance system began in the 1970s and 1980s with the roll-back of government social welfare programs. These attacks culminated in the 1990s with a drastic reduction in the number of unemployed workers covered by the program through regressive changes to EI qualifications. These attacks continue to today as large businesses and conservative governments try to increase emphasis on the individual’s responsibility to find work and reduce the collective responsibility to those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
Today, fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed workers qualify for EI even though they are unemployed through no fault of their own.
As a result of the Conservative government’s 2012 omnibus budget (Bill C-38), it has become even harder to qualify for Employment Insurance. Further, the process of appealing the decision has been changed to eliminate worker and employer seats on the appeals panels.