Part of the Conservative government’s new omnibus bill would require workers on Employment Insurance to accept work that pays up to 70 per cent less, to move in search of work, and to take available jobs outside their own occupation.
In a Toronto Star article released today, Zelda, a Workers’ Action Centre member speaks out on proposed changes to EI policy. Zelda had been doing assembly work for a temp agency but was laid off in March. She has been relying on EI payments since then as her job search efforts have so far come up empty. “No companies are hiring people full-time now because they don’t want to pay for the benefits,” she said. Zelda fears the changes could leave her and other unemployed workers out in the cold — unable to find work and cut off from the Employment Insurance that help pay the bills. She said these changes show that federal politicians don’t understand the struggle to find work — “They’re not for the poor people. They’re just for the rich people. Low-income people, we work hard because you pay mortgage, buy groceries. Shame on the federal government.”
By positioning the proposed changes as a plan to replace temporary migrant workers with Canadians who need those jobs, the government is pitting unemployed and migrant workers against each other. Cutting workers off employment insurance unless they’re willing to accept lower wages and unsuitable jobs, will push more people into precarious work that keeps them in poverty.