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Woolwich backs call for EI reform

Add Woolwich Township to the list of organizations calling for reform to Canada’s Employment Insurance program. Councillors this week endorsed changes set out by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national body representing the country’s local governments.

The FCM resolution supported by council ask the federal government to make more unemployed workers eligible for EI by reducing the number of work hours required to qualify; eliminate the regional differences in EI eligibility and benefits so that they’re standardized across the country; enhance benefits and eliminate the two-week waiting period to collect EI.

The wording is less demanding than a similar resolution submitted to council last month by the Waterloo Regional Labour Council. Although representative Steve Sachs was on hand Tuesday night to speak in favour of the wording of his organization’s motion, councillors stuck with the version recommended by staff.

“This is a more general resolution to allow the government more flexibility in making changes to the EI system,” explained clerk Christine Broughton.

Sachs argued for specifics, including lowering the qualifying hours to 360, which is especially important in Waterloo Region, where the requirements are among the highest at 710 to 900 hours.

It’s also important, he added, to ensure EI payments are based on a worker’s best 12 weeks of earnings. With more companies going to part-time workers or shorter workweeks, those measures can significantly lower EI payments to some workers unless the benefits are based on the previous higher income level, he said.

The labour council maintains that 70 per cent of applicants for EI in this area don’t qualify because Waterloo Region’s past economic successes mean the bar is set much higher here than in other parts of the country. As well, even if eligible, the unemployed can collect for only 27 weeks, much shorter than the 50 weeks being recommended as the national standard.

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