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MEDIA RELEASE: Federal Fall Economic Statement Falls Short of Addressing Key Concerns

November 27, 2023

NOVEMBER 27, 2023 – The federal government released the 2023 Fall Economic Statement (FES) on November 21st  and FFAW-Unifor has spent the last several days working to clarify support for seasonal workers. While some support is encouraging, the announcement falls severely short in several key areas, namely the exclusion of fish harvesters and the continuance of the reduced EI divisor.

“With no changes to the EI divisor, the announcement is a disservice to thousands of seasonal workers. Many are still up to $400 short in EI payments per month and that’s compounded in households where both income earners are seasonal workers. Moreover, it is shocking and quite deceptive that fish harvesters would be mentioned as a beneficiary of an extension that they are not entitled to,” explains Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President. “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are having their pockets picked by gas companies, supermarkets, and banks, and now the EI program designed to help is picking the pockets of seasonal workers,” Pretty says.

The atypical economic circumstances and anomalies in regional unemployment rates experienced in 2023 were recognized in the announcement for ‘Enhancing Employment Insurance Supports for Seasonal Workers’. In response, government has established an extension of four additional weeks of regular EI benefits to eligible seasonal workers in 13 economic regions that is immediately available to seasonal workers who meet the criteria outlined by Service Canada. This temporarily enhanced support would only be available for claims established between September 10, 2023, to September 7, 2024.

“The four-week extension is certainly welcomed by seasonal workers who are in extreme financial distress, but the federal government has failed to acknowledge the significant drop in income that has come from the divisor change and as a result some families are short up to $800 a month,” Pretty says.

“This help would have been much more impactful with consultation, which we have offered to Ministers Boissonnault and O’Regan in every correspondence and in-person discussion. This offer still stands, and there is still time to make this right,” said Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President.

For most FFAW members employed in the fishery, the extension is not the meaningful relief that the Union has spent months lobbying for, and does not capture the necessary assistance that was outlined in FFAW’s Economic Support Proposal, which would have been comprehensive for all fishery workers. Most alarmingly, despite the mention of ‘fishers’ in the address by federal government on November 21st, fish harvesters do not qualify for the further extension of the program. Moreover, the federal government failed to provide any assistance to those who are still carrying CEBA business loans and will be unable to pay off those loans before the forgiveness date.

“FFAW anticipated commending the announcements in the FES, but unfortunately, we cannot celebrate the bare minimum. The federal government has ignored the pleas of panicked seasonal workers and owner-operators. Our federal government was presented with a real opportunity to demonstrate the value of prime producers to the Canadian economy and assist them through a historically challenging year and they have failed,” Pretty concluded.


For inquiries:

Courtney Glode (she/her)
Director of Public Affairs

T: 709-576-7276

M: 709-743-4445
368 Hamilton Ave.

St. John’s NL A1E 1K2