[Opinion] United voices for employment insurance reform

The Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses and the Conseil du patronat du Québec join their voices to demand a reform of the employment insurance program. This is an agreement that will seem, in the eyes of many, unusual, even unnatural. We can agree that such a meeting is quite rare, just as we can assume that democracy remains an everyday challenge, a sensitive exercise which, precisely, takes shape with this composition of our differences and the search for channels of understanding.

This is how our societies are defined and constructed, and this remains a constant challenge. Today, we are proposing such a dialogue to support the project to reform the employment insurance program.

The pandemic that has raged over the past two years has brought to light major shortcomings in the employment insurance system (EIP). The latter proved unable to respond to the influx of benefit claimants caused by the crisis. Many workers, salaried, self-employed or from the new economy, have found themselves without income, leading the federal government in March 2020 to create emergency programs and to agree to relaxations in the RAE which will end next September.

Mandate letter for Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion says she must present and begin implementing by summer 2022 a plan to modernize the employment insurance program better adapted to the 21and century, simpler and better suited to the needs of workers and employers.

This in-depth reform has been demanded for several years by all labor market partners. This convergence is based on two objectives: workers must be able to count on a social safety net that provides them with better protection during a period of unemployment, while providing current and future employees with the best possible training to meet the challenges of the market. employment.

Our two organizations have therefore set up a framework for exchanges based on mutual respect for our respective positions, whether for the strengthening of the social safety net or for the development of skills. We believe that three principles of balance should guide the federal government in its employment insurance reform.

Ensuring better protection for workers

The scope of the RAE has been significantly reduced in recent decades. This is why we believe it is necessary to make the eligibility conditions more flexible and simpler in order to increase accessibility and coverage and, in general, to improve the protections that are provided, while simplifying management and application of this program. Certain sectors of the world of work, we are thinking among other things of seasonal work, but also of the world of self-employment and work on demand, deserve our full attention here.

The RAE as a privileged training opportunity

We are facing a context of labor shortage which is explained, among other things, by a need for training to acquire the required skills. Technological development is extremely rapid, and faced with the challenges posed by the ecological transition, we believe that different forms of assistance could be beneficial. These include: necessary investments in digital infrastructure; an increase in employment insurance benefits for anyone who consents, on a voluntary basis, to a training course; increased assistance to employers who want to support their employees struggling with a lack of qualifications.

Restoring social partnership in financing

It should be remembered that the RAE is a program that was set up to provide temporary income support to unemployed workers. Certain measures of a social nature have also been incorporated into the plan, in particular sickness benefits, benefits for caregivers and compassionate care, maternity and parental benefits (Quebec has its own parental insurance plan). As program costs must remain affordable, we favor a funding formula for the employment insurance fund involving a return of financial participation from the federal government in order to lighten the burden for both workers and employers.

We believe that the time has come to reform the employment insurance system so that it regains its primary purpose: insurance for unemployed workers and a system that supports workers and employers in their quest for a job. who can aspire to a better quality of life. The whole of society will benefit.

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