Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
January 12, 2012

Pressure builds on government as EI delays continue

The New Year for EI claimants is beginning in the same way as the old year ended: cheques are not arriving and call centre lines are jammed. Media interest persists, to the government’s dismay, and the public weighs in on the EI processing disaster through comments at news sites. CEIU is keeping up its efforts for both a decent level of service to the public and a manageable workload for its members.

In a January 11 editorial, The Guardian in Charlottetown, PEI, wrote:

Late last year, when the federal government conceded it was streamlining employment insurance processing services across the country, it assured Canadians there would be no noticeable difference in the level of service. Opposition parties and union representatives warned the closures couldn’t help but cause a delay in EI processing, but at the time, there was really little they could do but hope for the best.

It appears their fears were well-founded. In recent weeks, the complaints in the media from Islanders who have had longer waits than expected have mounted, and according to recent reports, some claimants have been in such urgent financial straits they’ve had to turn to provincial social assistance. The problem has also made its way to court. A defence lawyer recently identified a client’s unreasonably long wait for EI as a factor in an incident that led to criminal charges. Her client, one of an estimated 27,000 Canadians having difficulty getting their EI claims processed, she said, had given up drinking several years ago, but “lost it for a short period of time” when bills began mounting with no money coming in. 

So much for Ottawa’s assurances that all would be well.

“That pretty much sums it up,” said CEIU National Vice-President Donna MacDonald, “all is not well, and it won’t be until we have the staff and resources to get the job done.”

MacDonald has been speaking out in the media around the EI processing issue, including December 21 and January 6 interviews with CBC television. “We won’t stop speaking out until the government starts to take serious steps to address this problem,” said MacDonald.

MacDonald is also organizing her members against the planned closure of the processing centre in Montague. The closure would be a blow to both EI processing capacity and the local economy in PEI. The union is joining with local, provincial and federal politicians in the effort to have Ottawa rethink its position.

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