Companies, unions band together for EI change

  • Dec. 12, 2008 10:00 a.m.

They don’t usually work together, but several forest companies and unions are getting together to demand a change in the federal Employment Insurance program. The group, which includes Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers’ Union, is asking the feds to change the EI act to accommodate forestry workers unable to accumulate enough hours of work to be eligible for benefits. “On behalf of Forest Workers who have had very little employment over the past 24 months.we respectfully request.assistance to amend the Act to allow forest workers employment insurance benefits even though they may not have the required number of hours that are established for each economic region in Canada,” said a letter from the group, sent to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.As the act now stands, a worker in a region where unemployment is 6 percent or less is required to work 700 hours before benefits kick in, but a recent analysis by the IWA shows 39.6 percent of forestry workers have worked less than 700 hours in the past year, and more than a quarter have worked less than 420 hours. “Forest Workers who have a historical attachment to the.industry need help, and they need it now” said the request, sent December 5. It also noted the government has made previous concessions for fishers due to difficulties that industry faced over the last few years.”We ask for the same special consideration based on the massive downturn in the Canadian Forest Products Industry and the impacts on workers, their families, and their communities”, said the letter.