Employers’ Council wants better control of EI

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Federation of Labour head says survey is ‘insulting, derogatory’ to workers

The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council is calling for tighter control of Employment Insurance, on the back of a new survey they say demonstrates major concerns with the system.

The survey, conducted by Corporate Research Associates sent questions to more than 255 commission members and received 111 responses. The study found that 32 per cent of respondents say current EI rules make it harder to find employees and 41 per cent of employers reported an employee turning down a job offer due to EI eligibility. The worst of the findings, said council executive director Richard Alexander, is that 60 per cent of employers said an employee had asked for a layoff in order to receive EI benefits.

“Not only are employers competing against other employers for labour, they’re actually competing against the EI system. And that is not how the system is supposed to run,” said Alexander on Thursday morning during a half-day employers’ workshop at the Sheraton Hotel on EI challenges and strategies. Alexander added that the other main challenge for employers is that the EI system is currently running a deficit, but he warns that increasing premiums isn’t the solution.

“We know conclusively that when you increase something like an EI premium on employers and employees, not only are you ending up in a situation where employees are taking less home on their paycheque, which nobody wants, but it actually reduces the amount of employment available, and the wage increases that employers offer. So taxing payroll through EI or CPP or payroll tax or workers’ comp has a negative impact on employment levels, so we want to avoid that.” As well, Alexander said their members have reported employees postponing start dates and taking advantage of EI sickness benefits without proper medical documentation.

But the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour said the problem isn’t with the EI system, but with the employers.

“I don’t put any credence into any of the surveys they do internally,” Lana Payne said. “Wages must be awful low if they can’t compete with 55 per cent of someone’s salary. This is something that the employers’ council has been at for a while now. They’ve been attacking Employment Insurance. They’ve been attacking the work ethic of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They’ve been attacking workers’ compensation. They’ve got nothing better to do over there. They gotta wake up and smell the coffee and realize that the world has changed. No longer is Newfoundland and Labrador a low-wage economy. They’ve got to start competing for workers and competing for the skills that workers bring.”

 

No time frame for answers

The survey was conducted in 2009, and no time frame was set for respondents’ answers. Employers were asked if an employee had ever asked for a layoff to obtain EI benefits, and if an individual had ever turned down a job to remain eligible for EI. And despite the council’s concerns, the survey also found that 60 per cent of respondents were “mostly satisfied” with the current EI system, while 23 per cent were “mostly dissatisfied.” Two percent were “completely satisfied” with an equal percentage being “completely dissatisfied” and 14 per cent being neither dissatisified nor satisfied (numbers don’t add up to 100 per cent due to rounding).

Alexander said the survey isn’t about finding fault with workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I don’t believe there’s anything really different about us. Seasonal work is right across the country, and EI’s a Canadian system,” said Alexander. “I don’t want people to get the wrong idea when we start talking about EI. We’re not saying to destroy the EI system, turn it upside down, kick people off the EI system — that’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is if you’ve got a situation where you’ve got a labour shortage, and 60 per cent of employers are saying that people are asking for layoffs, well then maybe we should put a little bit more governance and diligence on the EI system to ensure that it’s being used in the method that it’s intended to be used. That’s only going to help the economy.”

Payne said while the EI system isn’t perfect — the federation has been critical of cuts made to benefits and training programs — she thinks the council’s criticism of EI is meant to deflect attention from problems with the labour market in the province.

“I really have a problem with these kinds of things that they get on with, over and over and over again. I find it insulting and derogatory to the working people of our province,” she said.

“So we’ve got the Employers’ Council of Newfoundland and Labrador once again attacking the work ethic of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the workers of our province, when every other jurisdiction in the country is coming here to hold job fairs. They’re crying out for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Well, why do you think that is? It’s because we have a tremendous work ethic, we bring skills to the job. I just find it astounding that this local crowd can’t seem to recognize that, and yet everybody else in the world understands about what we bring to the job and to the workplace.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Employment Insurance, Corporate Research Associates, Sheraton Hotel on EI Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour Council of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • D
    June 12, 2011 - 11:28

    I think the problem is that alot of employers are only paying minimum wage. They consider 28 hours a week full time. How can someone live on that? Alot of big box stores are like this. I think these big boxes store employees work hard for their money and should be treated with respect. I say unions for some of them. especially Walmart!!!!!!!!!!!! They need a reallity check. Walmart employees deserve better.

  • David
    June 12, 2011 - 10:13

    Problem#1: EI...long-standing electoral issue, now bordering on a genetic imprint. Unresolveable in the ongoing environment of political expedience and cowardice. Problem #2: governemnt jobs....increasingly material phenomenon, formerly known to be "jobs-for-the-otherwise-unemployable", now the lynchpin of the provincial economic strategy. Why take a low paying job when your number for government work is surely just about to be called?

  • David
    June 11, 2011 - 09:57

    We are as addicted to EI as cigarettes, booze or VLTs. You can put lipstick on this pig, but it's still a pig.

    • CH
      March 01, 2013 - 22:07

      I agree with you completely, I believe people are so addicted to E.I. it is there for a good reason believe me. I work in a industry were people go on E.I once a year and get there hours all summer. Then they want to work one or two days a wekk and make there allowable money. In the end they make more than driving there lazy butts into to work. It's a addiction and the government allows this to happen. I think they should start decreasing the month income or audit these people. Are you willing and able to work check out if the job they are working at is willing to have them work more or are they just telling them they are only available part time. Sick of all the mooches and employers don't care because they don't have to pay them...I know someone who does it every year and it's been 5 years who knows how long this went on before i knew her. She is young now and if she burns her bridges it's only going to get harder when she is older and they take this benefits away or make them harder to get.

  • NL TURF
    June 10, 2011 - 20:23

    Wayne's post was spot on. Right on target!! Please everyone, and especially Employers - re-read Waynes post!! To sum up Wayne's post - employer GREED is the problem, nothing more!! As the economy here heats up, even more, I would suggest, the employers will be forced to find many more creative solutions instead of wineeeeeeeeeeeeing. The tables are turning on employers, and you had better change your attitude, or we - the workers - will change it for you!! Workers are no longer dedicated to Employers who pay slave labour!! The EI program is the problem ? INDEED!!! YES BYE!!! It's you Mr.Alexander, and your employers who are the problem, and that my friend ,is about to change!!!

  • Christopher
    June 10, 2011 - 19:01

    You have got to be joking?????? EI is the reason why employers can not locate sufficient individuals to fill empty positions. Good God you bloody IDIOT. Open your eyes to the WHOLE PICTURE. Yes EI is a problem but only for 10% of the issue. The other 90% comes from employers being so cheap when it comes to paying their workers. NO individual can live on $10, it is friggen next to impossible to live on $15 dollars an hour in this province. Yes there are people who abuse EI, there is no denying that claim, however WE as a society in NL have created an environment where that is "acceptable" . We as a province have created this mess and we as a province should have the BALLS to stop this mess. There is no bloody way a McDonald's employee in St. John's NL should work for $10.00 when an individual living in another city in Canada makes $13-$14 an hour doing the same damn job. I have been on EI 3 times in my working life (each time due to downsizing) and I for one could not wait to get off of EI and get back to work.

  • JT
    June 10, 2011 - 14:48

    As a general rule, a greater number of local firms treat their employee's much worse than firms on the mainland, I know from personal experiance. I swear to god that many of them would love to go back to the good old days where workers where treated like they were owned, and owned cheaply. I know of one case where mechanics in a local garage worked in very cold temperatures in winter because the owner wanted to save on the heat bill (true story)

  • Chris
    June 10, 2011 - 13:34

    I'm an employer, but I do not share the position of the Council. I once interviewed a person who asked me "will this position interfere with my EI eligibility". That question was asked before the wage was discussed, but was perhaps a valid question given the position was short term in nature. The guy was looking out for himself like we all are. Is there a problem with the EI system; maybe small problems that justify a tweak to the system. The real problem(s), as I see it, is that issues such as this put the middle class against the middle class. The bigger problems we (i.e. 95% of the population) should be fighting about are corporate tax cuts, reinstating the inheritance tax (on large inheritances), and raising tax rates on high income earners. The balance of power continues to shift in favor of the weathiest 1%-5%. We don't feel it yet because of the oil in NL, and the federal borrowing over the past 25 years which has transferred weath from future generations to the present, but our time will come if we don't stop this power shift.

  • From Here
    June 10, 2011 - 12:16

    The problem is not EI or the current wages, it's the shortage of people who want to work. We all know people that work hard and would be too proud to be on any government handout and we all know people that will work only until they qualify for EI. With today's economy everybody who wants to work is already working, all that's left are the lazy freeloaders that will do as little as possible to take care of themselves. Those freeloaders will abuse EI, or some other social assistance program, or go live off mom & dad.

  • Joan
    June 10, 2011 - 11:14

    Not much trouble to see who walked hand and hand with Harper last month .

  • Randy
    June 10, 2011 - 10:56

    If this employer group expects my sons to sell his 250.000dollar home in edmonton ,give up his 34dollar an hr job,then move to st'john's,buy a home for 250 grand, and work for 18 bucks an hr.they must be smokeing some thing funny..I will say this;; They now have the right governments in place to destroy social programs ,like EI .Only thing is,the other half of rural nl would move out west ,with the rest of the family

  • JJ
    June 10, 2011 - 10:33

    EI is ot the problem!!! With economy in St. John's right now an individual needs at least 700 hours to even qualify for EI and the weeks eligible are shortened as well. A person cannot work for 3 months on the metro area and be on EI for the other 9 months!!! People and business owners should really stop complaining and do the proper research!!!! The issue here is the educational requirements needed for a decent paying permanent job, the salary and of course the nepotism that still exists here. For entry level positions here you are required to have a lot of education and it is always specific in nature..too specific. Many basic jobs require an office admin diploma but if you have a university degree with experience you are disqualified!!! Makes no sense!!! As well there are many governments agencies that only offer seasonal employment...these people struggle with decent wages but no union, no medical, no benefits and many have to work at minimum wage for the rest of the year. As well, if you turn down work for a lay off, you will not EI..you are disqualified.

  • JT
    June 10, 2011 - 09:54

    "60 per cent of employers are saying that people are asking for layoffs" Any employer who issues a layoff for any other reason than an actual lack of work for an employee is simply part of the problem.

  • David
    June 10, 2011 - 09:17

    Low-paying jobs in St. John's = convenience store clerk. Guess what the most dangerouss job in SJ is? Convenience store clerk. I wouldn;t take those jobs either, but EI isn't the problem.

  • Right On
    June 10, 2011 - 09:13

    EI should act as an the insurance program it was suppose to be and not the income support program that it has become. Let the people and businesses that choose to work or operate in seasonal conditions pay the larger share of the EI costs. The more you use it, the more you should have to pay.

  • Nonesense Boy
    June 10, 2011 - 08:59

    EI a problem? It's not that Nflders are lazy, You're right the pay is the problem! All across Canada able-body persons are on welfare, when they should go to work! As long as this system is paying the rent, medications, trips paid for to the doctors at an estimated cost of $20.00 a trip and the receipents go there every week just to get that $20.00, why would these people work. You can't beat that on a $10.00 an hour job. One time the welfare receipent couldn't own a car, if on welfare. Now they can have a car, and go on a vacation every month, from the money accrued from the doctor trips. You talk about the EI receipents, get real with all of this welfare nonesense! Now I agree some people have to be on welfare or fall through the cracks - those who have genuine problems, that's different, but I know of one person, who has never worked in 15 years, and was a former miner with no health problems He takes his vacation every month. A worker with a high paying job can't do that every month. I don't agree also, that the fishermen can fish for about 3 - 5 weeks, and draw top EI benefits, and have the rest of the year off, something's wrong with that! If you want to save money, tackle some of the real problems, like those above. Unfortunately, some people have to be on EI, why go to work for less money than on EI, it doesn't make sense. An average wage to be able to survive is the solution, and not making the higher class in big paying jobs, dictate the cost of living by driving high cost of living, housing and all the rest.. Get real in this life, we all have to live.

  • Penney
    June 10, 2011 - 08:59

    That's right Ms. Pain. The highest minimum wage in Canada and employer's are to blame for EI corruption.

    • Jerry
      June 10, 2011 - 09:35

      Yes because we can all live on $10 per hour right Penney? We have the highest minimum wage, but the lowest average pay as it seems a high number of employers only pay the minimum wage.

  • michael
    June 10, 2011 - 08:35

    All about EI.the working people pay taxes and EI premimuns everyday.if there is no work,what can they do?maybe half the reason is because there working for $10 bucks a hour.Maybe the government should sit down and discuss the problem of social services not the ones who are trying to work.i know lots of people who are young and very capable of working.Most of the people on welfare just dont want to work,they rather stay home and get a check for doing nothing.Make those people go to work and draw a workfare check rather than abusing the system.i work two jobs and i cant afford to go to the bar on the 15 and 30 like many do.

  • ob
    June 10, 2011 - 08:34

    why go to work when you can stay home for 75 present of the year and do nothing and recieve over 400 dollars a week nlers are not stupid

  • David
    June 10, 2011 - 08:29

    Sorry, St. john's. But we've been weaned and raised on EI since Confederstion. Generations of politicians have made whole careers out of using it to get re-elected. Our entire economy went underground for 4 decades to take advantage of a system that no one....NO ONE....wanted to see fiddled with. So I'm sorry you can't find people to fill your jobs...that's tough. But that's the Newfoundland we created, with everyone's implicit blessing.

  • wayne
    June 10, 2011 - 08:19

    The issue is NOT the EI program. The economy is booming but employers in the service industry still act like the unemployment rate is sky high. Look at the wages offered...... $10.75/hr or sometimes a "huge" $12/hr. Then look at the hours offered. Many of these employers are offering 20 hrs a week at odd shifts. If you are "lucky' enough to get 40 hours and make $12/hr then your gross salary is $480/week.....take out taxes, CP, EI , workers comp etc and you are below $400/week and that is only IF you get 40 hours. Try to live on $400/week. A crappy room in a run down house is $500/month. A decent apartment is $650 or more and then you pay at least another $150 for utilities ...that leaves you $800 to live on. Buy some groceries , buy a bus pass or if you have an old "clunker" of a car, but some gas. Pay a decent wage, offer full time employment and benefits and you will have no problem getting workers. That's why so many of us went to Ontario and Alberta, where the cost of living is way higher but you get treated with a bit of respect by the employers and paid a decent wage

  • Krista
    June 10, 2011 - 08:10

    Perhaps its time to look at the welfare system in NL. What kind of drain does that have on our bottom line? Leave the seasonal workers alone, at least they work. If we need to start cutting costs, how about eliminating long term welfare recepients, how about putting stipulations on beginning a family while receiving welfare benefits. Suggestion-Get a job. Like Ollie refered to, its getting to the point where low paying jobs is causing us to work around the clock to keep up with rising costs in housing and food and to help look after all the welfare receipents so they have enough money to play bingo.

  • Kent
    June 10, 2011 - 08:10

    I don't know what these employers are complaining about. You can't get EI unless you have a layoff notice, and it's only employers who can give these. The reason they can't fill their vacant jobs is because of the hot economy, not EI rules. There are simply more jobs than there are people to fill them. Unlike before in NFLD, the power to pick and choose is in now in the hands of the employee, and these old-school-minded employers lack the creativity to attract employers though other means (it's not always about pay)..... So they scapegoat the EI system.

  • Ollie
    June 10, 2011 - 07:51

    EI is not the problem it use to be. The problem is caused by the lack of full-time jobs with good pay. I was in the Village Mall recently and heard two different workers in two different shops talk about their three different jobs so they can make ends meet. While our economy is booming, low-end salaries are not keeping up with rising food and housing costs.