The federal government may have temporarily eased the worries of many seasonal workers in the region by extending EI pilot programs that, among other things, allowed workers to submit their best 14 weeks of earnings when filing for employment insurance benefits. But an eight-month extension doesn’t address the chronic uncertainties surrounding the programs. Why not simply make them permanent once and for all?
The federal government provoked concern and even outrage in regions of the country heavily dependent on seasonal industries when it announced a while ago that it would end certain employment insurance initiatives such as the Best 14 Weeks pilot project, which calculated EI benefits based on the highest 14 weeks of earnings. Ending this project would mean workers’ benefits would be calculated on the last 14 weeks of earnings.
Why would this shift be significant? Seasonal workers tend to get more weeks of work at the beginning or middle of the fishing, farming or tourism seasons, and calculating their benefits based on their final 14 weeks of work, rather than on the weeks of their highest earnings, would likely result in lower benefits.
No wonder seasonal workers objected. And, to its credit, the federal government has responded to their concerns — at least for now. The Harper government announced two weeks ago that it would extend the series of EI pilot projects, including the Best 14 Weeks initiative, for another eight months.
But why extend it for only eight months? Presumably government has accepted the logic of allowing seasonal workers to claim their best 14 weeks. Why else would it grant an extension? By what logic would it discontinue the policy after eight months?
Government should stop toying with the livelihoods of seasonal workers and make this policy permanent.