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September 11, 2023

September 11, 2023

The Union representing over 13,000 seasonal workers in Newfoundland and Labrador is calling on the federal government to enact emergency changes to assist those affected by the unexpected decline in the unemployment rate and corresponding increase in benefit qualification criteria.

“Our Union went to Ottawa this Spring to let our federal government know just what a precarious situation fish harvesters and plant workers are facing this year. Despite a modest proposal that would help these workers make it to next season, we’ve been met with nothing but lip service from those who have been elected to represent our members in Ottawa. Meanwhile, the economic situation has only worsened,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty.  “Implementing a temporary emergency change to maintain the divisor of 14 for seasonal labour claims is now critical to ensure baseline protections for workers and prevent a broad workforce crisis,” Pretty warns.

As of September 10, 2023, the unemployment rate outside the St. John’s Metropolitan region has decreased from 12.9 to 12.0, pushing the Employment Insurance qualification criteria into the next bracket. The consequence is that up to 20,000 seasonal workers relying on off-season benefits will no longer qualify for the maximum number of weeks nor receive top benefit amounts. These individuals are facing a dire financial situation and require emergency intervention from the federal government.

This adjustment changes minimum qualifying criteria to 490 hours for regular claimants and $18,912 for fish harvesters. The minimum number of weeks payable for regular benefits is now 23, and the maximum number of weeks payable is 45. With the new divisor of 16, 980 to 1,014 hours are now required for claimants to receive the 30 weeks of benefits necessary until the next work season begins.

“Many of our members are barely scraping by this season, and with the majority of work either now concluded or soon to be finished. Adding another 2 weeks of work is simply not feasible at this stage in the season. It’s irresponsible of our federal government to expect up to 20,000 Canadians to choose between going on social assistance or leaving their communities,” Pretty says.

“The EI system continues to fail workers, and EI reform remains stagnant. Seasonal fishery workers have faced significant hardship this year due to global circumstances beyond their control – but is within government’s control to intervene for financial stability. If we don’t get a satisfactory response early this week, I can assure you that our members will be on Seamus’s doorstep before long,” he concludes.


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