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Union Rep Wins EI Appeal for South Coast Fish Harvester

April 2, 2019

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 edition of the Union Forum magazine.

Union rep wins EI appeal for south coast fish harvester

Robert Keenan
Projects Manager, FFAW-Unifor

Access to employment insurance benefits is incredibly important for those that work in the fishing industry. The fishery is a seasonal industry, but it requires a consistent and dedicated workforce which the EI system allows for. But having a system in place and having that system work properly are two different things. EI is a massive program with many different rules and options and it is not hard to get lost in incorrect information, assumptions, and decisions.

For the membership of FFAW, they are fortunate to have the experience and knowledge of Allan Moulton on their side. Allan is a former vice-president of the Industrial-Retail-Offshore sector of the Union and now works in support of various FFAW industrial units. Allan is experienced dealing with the EI system, and served a few terms on the EI appeal board. Over the past several years, Allan has assisted members on numerous occasions with EI claims and appeal.

Last summer, Robert Jensen, a lifelong fish harvester and owner-operator on the south coast, needed a new crew member for the season. Robert’s wife, Sherry, expressed an interest in taking on the role, and she left the restaurant she had worked for the last 14 years and joined her husband aboard the vessel.

The fishing season proceeded as usual and, at the end of it, Sherry did what thousands of other harvesters and plant workers do – she filed for EI. However, Sherry’s claim was rejected. “I was told by Service Canada that I had to go look for alternate work, which is false because EI rules do not require seasonal workers to look for new work if there is a likelihood of being called back,” Sherry explained. “After all, what company wants to hire someone and have them quit after a few months to go back to their old job.”

Sherry was also told that she was not making herself available for work and not applying to available jobs. On this excuse, Service Canada were particularly unhelpful and refused to even inform Sherry of the jobs that she supposedly neglected to apply for.

Frustrated by the denial of her claim, Sherry and Robert reached out to FFAW for support. When Allan reviewed the facts, he knew that Sherry was not being treated properly.

“I contacted the Service Canada agent that was dealing with Sherry’s claim and I quickly realized that he would provide no help,” Allan said. “The agent just told me that I would have to appeal, so that’s what I did.”

Allan understands the case law on EI claims. He knows what arguments to make and how to make them. On October 16, 2018, Sherry’s appeal was heard by the Chair of the Social Security Tribunal in St. John’s. Allan presented the facts, and on October 26th, the Chair delivered his ruling siding with Sherry.

The victory has made a significant difference in the lives of Sherry and Robert. She received all of the EI benefits she was owed, which is allowing her and Robert to get by until the fishing season starts again in April. “This is a huge weight lifted off our shoulders,” Sherry said, clearly relieved and happy. “We are so thankful for the work that Allan did for us.”