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FFAW Stresses the Importance of EI Intervention

September 20, 2023

FFAW-Unifor issued another letter to federal Minister Randy Boisonnault today emphasizing the importance of EI Intervention for seasonal workers in Economic Region 2 engaged in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. The letter was also directed to a lengthy list of cc’s, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Premier Dr. Andrew Furey, and all NL Members of Parliament.

In follow up to the Union’s previous letter of August 15, 2023, the correspondence on today’s date reiterates the scope of impacts to seasonal workers in rural NL since the most recent adjustment on September 10th. Many workers have reported that they are now forced to face bankruptcy or exit the industry altogether. The drop in the unemployment rate for Region 2 from the longstanding 14% to 12% places workers in a new bracket of qualifying criteria that requires a higher number of hours for regular claimants to qualify, and a higher amount of earnings for fish harvesters. With the criteria changed at the end of the fishing season with little to no opportunities for workers to bridge the gap to eligibility, some workers are unable to access EI altogether and those that are will be up to seven weeks without any benefits before the next working season begins in 2024.

In the short term, FFAW is requesting that the longstanding divisor of 14 be reinstated for Economic Region 2 (minimum qualifier of 420-hours for regular claimants, and minimum earnings of $16,548 for fish harvesters). In the longer term, the Union is calling for:

  • A 360-hour or 12-week qualifying rule with 50 weeks of income support.
  • An end to harsh disqualification rules.
  • Fish harvesters to be appropriately classified as seasonal workers and for the corresponding criteria for seasonal workers to be clarified so it is comprehensive and inclusive.
  • Improvement of the weekly benefit rate including a guaranteed weekly minimum.
  • EI to act as an effective economic stabilizer in times of crisis.

Also on today’s date, FFAW received a letter from provincial Minister Bernard Davis in response to the Union’s letter to Premier Dr. Andrew Furey on September 8th requesting for support on a provincial level to mitigate the EI crisis. Minister Davis confirmed that a letter of support was sent to Minister Boissonault on September 8th on behalf of the province advocating for intervention.