Unions are furious that Canada is ending CRB payments
Canada's federal government revealed its new pandemic recovery programs on Thursday, set to replace the expiring Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) expiring on Oct. 23.
But labour unions are ringing alarm bells, claiming the new primarily employer-directed programs fail to adequately protect the three-quarters of a million workers who rely on CRB.
The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program, the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program, and the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit will all go into effect this weekend, replacing CRB as of Saturday.
Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, representing 315,000 workers, is one of the loudest voices of dissent, issuing a press release claiming that the new programs will leave troubling gaps in income security.
The federal government’s decision to end the Canada Recovery Benefit before implementing a permanent fix for the country’s inadequate #EI program will revert workers to failed pre-pandemic income security measures. #Covid19canada #CRB #cndpolihttps://t.co/yWlIFcAd65 pic.twitter.com/ozjLpkH2FG— Unifor (@UniforTheUnion) October 21, 2021
"Everyone wants to move past this pandemic, but the fact is the economy and workforce isn't ready. The federal government cannot simply wind down a program that still supports 750,000 people without a viable, permanent income security replacement," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.
"The government gave themselves the flexibility to extend the recovery benefit for another month, and they should have done that," continued Dias.
Unifor claims the ending of CRB will hurt workers, many ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, and that the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit is too narrow in scope to support many unemployed workers.
Instead, Unifor is pushing for a more comprehensive EI system that would include improvements in eligibility criteria, benefits, and administration.
"If the government wants to chip away at these temporary support programs, the fact is, they've got to build up our permanent income support measures first. Workers can't afford to go back to the shamefully inaccessible and inadequate EI system that we faced before the pandemic," said Dias.
Unifor's statement is just the latest adding to the chorus of calls from the labour force, with the Canadian Labour Congress also speaking out on the need for direct support to workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
"Nearly 250,000 people have been out of work for a year or longer. Many have exhausted their EI claims and have nowhere else to turn," said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, earlier in October.
"The end of the pandemic is in sight, but the recovery is still just beginning. Canada's unions have been demanding a recovery with workers at the centre, and that starts with extending these vital benefits," continued Bruske.
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