Seasonal workers to be hardest hit by EI changes
Published Thursday, May 24, 2012 6:02PM ADT
The federal government announced today that changes will be made to the way Employment Insurance is handed out, and the changes are expected to hit seasonal workers the hardest.
The new rules mean people who use Employment Insurance regularly may be forced to accept lower paying jobs. When the changes come into play, Heidi Kakonyi could be among those weighing her options.
"I don't know what I'd do to be quite honest with you, I really don't," says Kakonyi. I rely on EI."
Kakonyi runs a lobster pound in Eastern Passage, N.S. and for five months of the year she claims Employment Insurance.
"It would be really nice if those people who are sitting behind a desk that are making all of those decisions would go out on a lobster boat for the month that they're out there fishing and see what it's actually like, and how hard these men and women work," she says.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced today that the government will be creating stricter rules around how to apply for Employment Insurance.
"This program is about helping Canadians, helping them understand their roles and responsibilities when they're on EI, but helping them get back to work in a job that's local and that's within their skill range," says Finley.
The new rules are expected to hit seasonal workers the hardest, as people who have spent more time on Employment Insurance will be forced to accept lower paying jobs.
For example, people who have collected Employment Insurance for 60 weeks over the past five years will be refused Employment Insurance if they decline a similar job that pays 80 per cent of their previous wage.
"You fish lobsters for two months," says Sydney, N.S. resident David Boudreau. "Do they expect you to pick strawberries for the next two months? Or plant trees for another two months?"
However, some Maritimes are supporting the government's plan.
"Right now we have a system where working Maritimers pay high taxes for those Maritimers who don't want to work, and that's not in keeping with our Maritime character," says Kevin Lacey, a spokesperson with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "And that's why these reforms are so necessary."
"When the federal government makes it harder for people to stay in areas, especially in rural Nova Scotia, it's a concern about depopulation because, again, it's harder to get them back on the proverbial farm," says Deputy Premier Frank Corbett.
Corbett says the plan would only require workers to accept a job within an hour's commute of their home, but Kakonyi says that won't work for her.
"I've looked into all of this when it comes time for me to be drawing unemployment, and it's usually, they start you off at minimum wage," she says. "I can't do that. I have two children to support and I have a household to run and I need more income than minimum wage."
As the federal government claws back Employment Insurance, it says only one per cent of current claimants will be cut off under the new plan.
The new rules are expected to be in place by early next year.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell
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