Yesterday, the federal government announced $189 million in funding to extend employment insurance coverage for seasonal workers. This news is a victory for processing workers and FFAW-Unifor, who fought hard for these changes.
“Plant workers in our province are experiencing a very difficult year, resulting from dramatic declines in crab and shrimp stocks. These additional benefits will be a lifeline for our members who are facing a financial crisis and will not receive enough work this year,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
In June 2004, a pilot project was initiated to extend regular EI benefits by up to five weeks above the regular entitlement period. The pilot project proved to be effective for seasonal workers in this province, most of whom are subject to early spring ice conditions or ecosystem changes that affected fish harvesting over which they have no control. However, the pilot project expired in July 2017 despite its proven success in supporting workers.
A committee of FFAW-Unifor plant workers from around the province put significant pressure on government officials in recent months. The reinstated program provides for five additional weeks of employment insurance benefits for seasonal workers facing gaps in income between the end of their benefits and the start of the working season.
Drastic quota cuts in recent years have left our plants with a shortage of work and have made it difficult for many plant workers around the province to acquire the minimum qualifying weeks.
“Five extra weeks of employment insurance benefits will help plant workers to keep food on our table until work begins again next year,” said Doretta Strickland, Vice President-Elect of FFAW-Unifor’s Industrial Council and plant worker at Ocean Choice International in Triton.
The newly announced funding will run from August 5, 2018 to May 30, 2020.
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