Canada to tighten employment insurance rules

Thu May 24, 2012 4:18pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada announced tighter rules for payouts to the unemployed on Thursday, requiring jobless workers to be willing to accept jobs at lower pay or commute farther for work if they want to collect unemployment insurance.

The Conservative government said the changes would help deal with the anomaly of high overall unemployment at a time when there are labor shortages in certain areas.

Opponents said the government is demonizing people without jobs, and would force skilled workers to accept unskilled jobs.

"Let me be crystal clear," Human Resources Minister Diane Finley told a news conference. "The changes that we are proposing...are not about forcing people to move across Canada or to take work that doesn't match their skill set. Our goal is to help Canadians find local work that matches their skills."

Noting that some employers are hiring foreign workers even while Canadians are making claims for employment insurance in the same occupation and province, she added: "We want to redress the balance right now so that Canadians get first crack at the jobs before we bring in temporary foreign workers."

The changes to employment insurance rules mean that frequent claimants, for example in the seasonal fisheries industry, must be willing to take any job in their region for which they are qualified after seven weeks of benefits, even if taking the job means taking a 30 percent pay cut.


An unemployed fisherman, therefore, would have to take a job flipping burgers at McDonald's if the restaurant were offering wages equal to 70 percent or more of his fishing earnings. If he did not, his unemployment benefits would end.   Continued...

Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley takes part in a news conference in Ottawa May 24, 2012. Canada's Conservative government announced tighter rules for employment insurance on Thursday to try to deal with the anomaly of high unemployment alongside job shortages in certain areas. REUTERS/Blair Gable