The United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union is voicing concern over the federal government’s plan to discontinue three employment insurance projects that have benefited seasonal workers.
In a letter to Prince Rupert Mayor, on behalf of the UFAWU-CAW, Christina Nelson from the Prince Rupert office said the three projects have benefited the region and need to be extended.
Nelson requested council write a letter asking that the projects be continued.
The projects include Best 14 Weeks where workers provide can select their highest paid weeks of employment for a better benefit rate, Working While on Claim 60%, meaning they can make up to 60% of their weekly rate before any money is deducted from their EI benefits, and the Extended EI Benefits, which allows for an extra five weeks of EI.
Mayor Jack Mussallem said the projects have been timely for Prince Rupert and certainly helped.
Council unanimously endorsed writing a letter, and afterwards Councillor Joy Thorkelson reminded that over the last six years, the council has written many letters to various ministers in charge of employment insurance.
“The last three answers we received were that there were these wonderful pilot projects going on and that’s why we didn’t need to worry about making our EI economic area smaller. Or that was the reason why we didn’t have to implement the 28 recommendations that were passed by the all-party committee regarding changes to the employment insurance act, was because these pilot projects were going to be the end all, be all, for this area in helping people,” Thorkelson said.
Thorkelson, who also works for the UFAWU-CAW, said the union would prefer to have the 28 recommendations implemented, although it doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon.
She also said the northern economic area, with its boundary extending from Haida Gwaii to the Yukon border, and from the Alberta border down to Cache Creek is too large.
In the bottom of the province, she said, there are five economic regions, and in those regions, it’s possible for people to drive to another economic region for work, whereas in the north that’s not possible.
“ We’ve received a letter back about six months ago saying that it’s going to come up for review again, and at that time period our union will have another campaign going, which I hope council will support us on. In the meantime, these projects have helped keep money in town, kept people off welfare and given people a more positive attitude seeking work,” Thorkelson said.
Councillor Kathy Bedard echoed Thorkelson’s concerns about the regional boundaries and said it’s been an ongoing battle.
“I still think we should be approaching the federal government in regards to employment insurance and how they look at the region. It’s imperative that we look at dividing the regions from the interior and Prince George west, and then north of Prince George,” Bedard said.
Bedard’s suggestion was also endorsed unanimously.
Part way through the discussion Thorkelson thanked council for endorsing the union’s request.
“How we look after the poorest in our community always shows what kind of community we are,” she said.