Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
August 31, 2009

Labour Day, 2009

The achievements of unions and workers will again be celebrated this Labour Day, but 2009 has not been an easy year for many working people in Canada. The financial crisis, triggered by relentless corporate greed, led to a severe recession that has seen over 500,000 Canadians lose their jobs this year.

Added to the problem of growing unemployment is the worry of many over the state of their pension plans, and for the 60% of Canadians who have no employer-based plan, the prospects for a financially secure retirement are rapidly fading.

CEIU members work with both the unemployed and the elderly. Many who lost their job in 2009 failed to qualify for EI benefits, and CEIU members were left to deliver the sad news to these Canadians. At the same time, the production pressures on EI staff have been immense as they struggled to pay the claimants who did qualify. Members involved with the Canada Pension and Old Age Security programs faced similar challenges as they worked to assist those entering retirement.

The Canadian Labour Congress has joined other groups in the call to reform Employment Insurance and pensions:

The same program that generated more than $50 billion in surplus for the federal government – which it spent on corporate tax cuts when times were good – could only provide benefits to less than half of the unemployed. Most were left to fend for themselves, many after paying for EI protection, pay cheque after pay cheque for months, sometimes years… We can fix EI so it works the way it was always supposed to and change the rules so people who are self employed, work part-time or on contract are not left out in the cold.

Working people need to know that they can save enough money over a lifetime of work to avoid living their last years in poverty. It’s time for an insurance plan to guarantee retirement security for everyone. It’s also time to invest more into proven programs like the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security instead of tax cuts that only help the banks make more money by selling faulty products to people.

Working on the front lines gives CEIU members a deeper appreciation for the need for reforms as well as for resources adequate to serve Canadians

Labour Day is an opportunity to mark out the work yet to be done and to celebrate our achievements. For the unemployed and the elderly, we clearly have much more to do. For our achievements over decades, from winning the eight hour day to improved safety and health provisions, we have much to celebrate. CEIU will recognize these achievements with a short video to be broadcast on the CTV News Channel. You can view the video online here.

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