MP says EI claimants upset with long delays

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Ryan Cleary — File photo

Recent job cuts at Service Canada’s call centre in Pleasantville are being blamed for creating long delays in the processing of employment insurance (EI) claims and fuelling frustrations for both claimants and workers.

Ryan Cleary, NDP MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, said Tuesday a Service Canada employee told him this week the wait time for an EI claim to be processed was normally 28 days, but, in a lot of cases now, it’s six weeks or even two months because there aren’t enough workers to handle the claims.

Cleary said 20 positions that would normally be filled by the end of June to look after EI claims have not been filled, and that’s what is creating the delays.

Most of these claimants have been living from paycheque to paycheque before being laid off and then have to wait six to eight weeks to receive an EI cheque, Cleary said.

In the meantime, he said, their bills, car and mortgage payments are coming due, some face threats of foreclosure and have trouble just putting food on the table.

“These are all the messages that this Service Canada employee related to me yesterday and he said the frustration is building,” Cleary added.

At one point last week, he said, the employee told him a claimant threatened to walk into the Service Canada centre in Pleasantville and “blow away” the employees.

Cleary said the police were called and this was dealt with, but it’s reflective of the building frustrations among EI claimants who are having an “incredibly hard time making ends meet and to wait this extra long wait time is causing just incredible frustration, not just for them but for their families.”

The MP asked his source what he would say if he were in the House of Commons. Cleary said he replied that he would ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to pay a visit to a call centre dealing with EI claimants and “listen to the desperation in people’s voices.”

Cleary said even the wait for a call back is longer. It used to be three days and it’s now five.

Denise Best, national union representative for the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU), said she’s aware of these concerns.

And, she fears there will be even more ramifications from further cutbacks planned by the federal government as it automates this system.

Best said anyone in need of money are going to get upset, even though the employees are trying to help them the best they can.

“You have all that, plus you have our compensation advisers who are being relocated,” she said.

About 11 advisers are being relocated to Winnipeg or Montreal, Best said. They can choose one of these locations for two years and, after that, they have to relocate to Miramichi, N.B.

The cuts planned by the Harper government will affect communities in the province, especially rural communities, Best said, because it’s also planned to have only one processing site in St. John’s. The three other existing sites — Corner Brook, Happy Valley and Gander — will not be processing EI claims by 2014, she said.

Best estimates between 50 and 70 jobs will be affected.

She said the federal government is saying employes will be offered other jobs in other departments but every other department is facing cuts too.

And, if they have to relocate out of the province, Best said that’s going to affect the spouses of these employees, who will have to leave their jobs if they’re employed here, and their children who will have to be taken out of their schools.

So, the numbers in the communities are going to go down as well, she said. “There will be like a ripple effect all the way along. So, that kind of leaves our members wondering what the hell is going to happen to them at the end of the day?”

Best said she’s also not confident that the proposed automated system will work as effectively as the federal government says it will.

She said claims now can be filed from your home computer, but if there’s one little thing wrong, when it goes into the system, it’s kicked back out to an employee to fix.

“So, by saying that because of automation, they’re going to need fewer people, that’s just not true,” Best said.

She figures the changeover to an automated system is about 3/4 completed now. Best said the federal government hasn’t given the union an exact date, but the downsizing of processing sites from four to one is set for 2014.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Service Canada, Canada Employment and Immigration Union, House of Commons

Geographic location: Pleasantville, Winnipeg, Montreal Miramichi Corner Brook Happy Valley Gander

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Recent comments

  • David Mair
    June 13, 2013 - 23:39

    I have been out of work since beginning of feb 2013, I applied right away but due to mistakes made on their end have received nothing. I payed for courses out of my own pocket to go work on the oil rigs but have been unable to find a company willing to hire me and local work is competitive. I am a hard working guy just trying to make it without assistance but nothing seems to be clicking and the bills have piled up. My car is in the process of being repossessed. My phone and internet about to be cut off. I am not even able to put food on the table for me or my daughter and have not been able to see her because of it. its is a horrible feeling watching your life fall apart and being told over and over there doing calculations on how much your getting and for you to wait and call back in a week. I don't blame overworked workers for my problems but I do want the service I payed for. Its not about being greedy or abusing the system I just want to keep my life from falling apart.

  • Frustrated with Ei
    April 09, 2013 - 18:49

    Born and raised in Canada. I have had no money from Ei since Feb 26, 2013. I took a course in February 2013 and paid for it myself. So I could get a job where age descrimination will not be a problem. I was available for work while I was taking the course. Now Ei has to decide if they are going to pay me for that week. Sent in 3 report cards already but Ei holds all monies until they make a decision. That is so stupid. Just hold the money for the 2 weeks they are deciding on. I have paid into ei for over 25 years. I was laid off due to restructuring of a large company that bought a smalled company. I know it was because of my age BUT no proof. Had to sign an agreement when I was let go for no court action. Canada really is begining in suck. I am not proud to be a Canadian anymore..Harper you need to stop sitting with blinders on. Canada is not for the working people anymore. For the rich and the immigrants.

    • JS
      September 24, 2013 - 10:18

      I was reading your comment which I found very true, since I am in the same situation, I have been working for 15 yrs non-stop and contribute to EI, I recently lost my job, june 2013 and I am still waiting today sept 24 2013, but I am an immigrant, I don't know you think immigrants own canada, but this is really idiotic to believe such thing. Why do I have to wait 3 months for the money that I worked for ?

  • Anonymous
    March 31, 2013 - 11:14

    With the way the world is going, I'm really starting to understand the logic in terrorism. Obviously the government cares more about giving our Canadian jobs to immigrants rather than fixing the flaws in our system that are supposed to help the Canadian citizens. Lets let our people starve for weeks while they wait for EI which they are forced to pay in the first place. Remind me why I pay taxes, why I go to work, why I pay EI and CPP if I do not have immediate access to it when I need it. All payments to the government should be optional if they are going to turn around and withhold money we are entitled to. When they want their money they want it NOW, if they owe us money we will be lucky to receive it after 6 weeks if at all. Our government should at least be held at the same accountability as we would be, they certainly make at least ten times as I do per year. At least we still have freedom of speech in our country, despite that I bet this post will probably be removed. Also starting to understand all the movements with protests people have been fighting for, its getting to the point where you either need a million people with signs or else you need weapons of mass destruction to get your voice heard. Maybe we should all move to another country and take their jobs, thats what our country promotes.

  • Celia
    January 22, 2013 - 05:46

    I have a two year old and one on the way, i have been waiting for almost two months, and well past mytwowek waiting period. Yet nothing, and imafriad we could be on the streets if idont recieve something soon. First time i went on e.i no problems. What. Is going on! We are intitled to what we pay into. Familys depend on it! :'(

    • Rob Lidkea
      January 25, 2013 - 12:54

      My partner and I are in the same situation all the way down in the Niagara Region of Ontario. It has been nearly 2 months for us. It's a shame that our Federal government has other priorities other than taking care of it's people first. Nothing good has come since Steven Harper and the Conservatives have been in power. It is due time for something new. Hope things turn out for you too!

  • RU Kidding Me
    November 26, 2012 - 08:31

    Haven't even received my first EI payment and it is already on hold because I have a postal box ? Um excuse me, but 90% of atlantic canada is postal box delivery . Have been attempting to call the numbers given to explain why my mail is such delivered , but have been constantly disconnected due to high call volumes that exceed 45 minutes ? Excuse me ?? I am proud to say I have not made an EI claim before .Time to start calling my local MP . I bet he'll answer the phone in less than 45 minutes.

  • Angry wife
    January 17, 2012 - 14:48

    My husband has been waiting for his EI as well has been over 2 months. He was temporairly laid off for trade school and is now back at work. We are used to this and we planned accordingly for the wait period of 2 weeks then after that it went downhill. He kept calling non-stop after that and every rep that he spoke with (after waiting from anywhere 30min onwards to get through) and they kept telling him it has been approved and will be in the account on Wednesday seems like Wednesday was the magic day... Wednesdays came and went and still nothing. They also told him that since he is in trade school he also needed to complete a form for when you are laid off from the employer and not because of trade school so he did.. then again they the waiting and calling and was told Wednesday again... was like this for 2 months... He called them just before New Years and spoke with yet another rep this time it only took 45min to get through and they said yes your claim has been approved but looks wired no money has been issued and I have never seen that before so he said that he would escalte it and should receive a call with in the next 5 business days... it has been 3 weeks and still nothing.. Then he got a letter int the mail and saying that he has to call to file a report with EI as he was laid off from work so he called and told him that he was just in trade school and then they told him to call.... WTF is going on here??? We pay into this service that is supposed to help us during our time of need and yet when we need it to pay bills mortgage car feed ourselves we don't have access to the funds?? They why pay into something if we cannot use it... I would sooner take that money and set it aside for instances like this. IMO- service Canada has poor customer service and there is no excuse for being rude, condecending, and not responding to calls and it as an agency should be repremanded. I work in the service industry and it is completely unacceptable and if I acted the way that Service Canada agents act I would be out of a job but then again it is Service Canada and there is no one to govern them so they do what they want when they want and when they feel like doing anything they will .. RIGHT???

    • Angry Bird
      January 18, 2012 - 02:14

      My husband also waiting for EI more than 2 months. The company he has worked for 15 years was moved to Toronto and he got lay off on Oct 2010. Because of his severance pay, EI ask him to reappy in November 6, 2011. During this time, he worked for a temporary agent for 3 months till the assignment ended. In the week of November 6, he reapplied the EI. By the end of November, he got a rejection for not working enough hours. We called the agent to explain we are reopening the claim for he has worked for 15 years, not the temp job. It took more than an hour to make the agent to understand. She said will make decision on December 21. This is more than 3 weeks. Nothing happen on the 21st, we called on December 22, the agent said this is a simple case and shouldn't take that long, he will escalate the claim someone will call us by January 4, 2012. Nothing happen on 4th, we called on January 6th, the agent put the claim as 2nd level and someone will call by January 10. Nothing happen on 10th we called on January 12, the agent takes my claim to third level, as usually, someone will call on the next day. On January 16, we called again, the agent put our claim as forth level and someone will call us on the next day. We have asked the agent how many level you have. She said she will e-mail her supervisor and her supervisor will e-mail the processing centre and this is the only way. No one call us today, tomorrow we will start to play the calling game again. The Service Canada phone line is always busy and always get the call volume is high and unable to transfer your call. I have tried the local Service Canada centre, no one there can help, where else can we seek help?

  • Jeff Harder
    January 16, 2012 - 10:55

    I My self have been out of work now since nov 20 2011 and i am still waiting i agree that with some of you that this can lead to huge depression and mental stress, this has caused me problems with eating when i can manage to put food on my table problems with blood pressure among other health issues( and i am 23 with no health issues what so ever and above average shape ) There need to be some kind of law suit filed to change this my goal is not money but to stop being pushed around bye people who dont care because i have payed for them to eat( and we all know who i'm talking about ) if any of you know any good lawers or any working of our legal system please contact me as i want to put something together. They are not living up to there mission statement about what there obligations are to us as the people. I know when i dont pay my bills there is interest , but again my goal is not to make money but to cause a S**T storm that wont soon be forgotten and will make them address this issue instead of making it worse boyblunder_5@hotmail.com. Isn't this is some way illegal for the government to do this to the people.... why should criminals and people who don't add to society be eating and living better than others who have jobs and pay for these. This is unjust and somthing need to be done about it !

  • Dave
    January 05, 2012 - 10:06

    Guv just anounced an increase in EI Premiums too. Amazing how quick the Guv is to act on labour movements ie. Cda Post and Air Cda basically stripping the basic right to strike, but so insanely slow at delivering a service that is paid for dearly (Forcefully) by all Cdn's. Been waiting 6 wks for my ei, no luck pressing buttons because the feds don't care, Was in the financial community in a senior position and was laid off, tried to start a new career in the construction field (Laid of in Nov) but am giving that up because I found out that Const. Co's can dump you without explanation and zero notice at any time. Welcome to the new world, part time work, slave like conditions and a govt that only cares about CEOs and their buddies filling each others pockets. I have lost everything, home, family, job, whats left? A Good long EI wait... Being radical is not for me i just accept it and survive like the good natured canadian that i am, ? New Canadians and Refugees get treated better than EI Claimants. Who paid for the service anyways! Lets opt out of EI premiums, Sincerely, Destroyed but not out

  • jay
    December 01, 2011 - 13:15

    I was laid off in September and as of today I still have not received EI. I have already escalated it and waited the 5 days for a callback that never came. And am now on hold to escalate it again. In the mean time I have 20$ to my name and have lost my apartment. If not for a family member taking me in, I would be in a shelter right now or worse. When I speak to the agents, a high percent of them are rude and condescending. I have never needed EI before and hope I never need it again. The depression that this has cause has been massive.I can only imagine how much worse it is for those who do not have family and friends to support them. I wonder how many lives have been forfeited because of these delays.

  • Trevor
    November 29, 2011 - 08:47

    It's not an issue due to lack of staff members, it's an issue due to ridiculous policies required to approve a claim! Why in the world does Service Canada need to speak with an employer you worked for nearly one year ago, when that employer has *absolutely nothing* to do with the employer that laid you off? This is complete non-sense and is a waste of time! I'm sure my employer from 10 months ago has better things to do with their time than to speak to Service Canada about an employee who no longer works for the company. The issue is that the whole system is designed to make getting EI as difficult as possible. That's the issue. Lack of staff is just icing on the cake.

  • Marty B
    November 16, 2011 - 13:32

    Pretty soon the only federal payroll in Newfoundland will be for MP's and people on EI. we've been part of Canada for over 60 years but Ottawa and Harper cannot do enough to margainalise us from the rest of the country. No Regional head offices here, not much military presence, saying marine rescue is just a call centre. Face it, they don't want us in Canada and their actions show that.

  • George
    November 16, 2011 - 10:39

    I have read the article and most of the comments. Mr. Cleary is right on about some things, but let’s set the facts straight. The Federal Government is one of the worst abusers of the EI program themselves. Most of the employees within the Federal Government in Newfoundland are part-time workers. These employees are hired on with no benefits, no access to leave (sick, or vacation), because in most cases they are given contracts that are less then 90 days. So I can see where Mr. Cleary is coming from with the incredible slow downs and hardship put on the public. But on the other, it is a know fact that the Federal Government, has no intention on filling the full time positions of their retiring workforce. Therefore, the Federal Government is creating what used to be called a 10 – 42 situation! Look at the broader picture Mr. Cleary, it’s all there in black and white, Mr. Harper wants all Federal jobs in Newfoundland & Labrador to be part-time if there are jobs at all. An no I’m not a Federal Worker!

  • Todd Reddy
    November 16, 2011 - 10:09

    This man likes hearing him self talk. Won't get my vote next time around. :(

  • Mark
    November 16, 2011 - 10:08

    Give him his due, he's said more about issues that affect Newfoundlanders in his first 6 months in office than Siobhan Coady ever did. He's a mouth for the people, she was a mouth for herself.

  • grant
    November 16, 2011 - 09:34

    Jimmy Mac, I ask you, where is mr Cleary going to get full time jobs for all those seasonal workers? They would all have full time jobs if they werent laid off. EI has billions of dollars collected from workers for just that reason, so lets not blame the worker or mr Cleary.

    • Doug
      November 16, 2011 - 09:54

      The pot of money for EI is the result of full time workers; seasonal workers take out more than they pay in. I don't have a problem with seasonal workers and EI. If we didn't have the EI subsidy then employers would have to pay more and that would mean higher prices to consumers.

  • Carl
    November 16, 2011 - 09:09

    The far bigger issue in this story is the death threat issued against Service Canada employees by an irate EI claimant. I certainly hope the employee in question notified the police about the threat and had the person charged.

  • sealcove
    November 16, 2011 - 09:03

    right on jimmy

  • Jimmy Mac
    November 16, 2011 - 07:15

    Maybe Mr Cleary should suggest ways of getting these "seasonal" workers off the EI teet and hold down full time jobs. This entire seasonal work scenario does nothing but abuse the EI program and promotes a culture of entitlement that has entrenched itself into the rural fabric of our province.

    • Jeff
      January 16, 2012 - 11:03

      well i take it you work in an office or in side you p***** of ***** so ya deal with the elements hell come do my job for even a day and say that i would break you and your smart ass little comments, i work harder and long than most will so in a scene i look at the winter as my vacation and trust me buddy ive worked through the winter in my trade and its not safe or fun go out and experence the world before you make comments like that because its use seasonal workers that have built the house u live in if you do ......

  • mom
    November 16, 2011 - 07:08

    I received EI one year. I remember the wait until my claim was approved was brutal with the little money I had managed to put aside that year. Fortunately I have been working full time since then. My heart goes out to those who are waiting to get a cheque to buy food for their families. If you have not experienced this you probably would not believe the fear that goes with feeling helpless. They can't go out and get another job because there is no other job in their area. If you have a friend that is waiting on a claim you could pick up a few groceries for them. A friend did that for me and it made a huge difference. I cried about it at the time and when I could I paid my friend back. It is time for government to realize that it is real people who are being hurt by these cutbacks and not only those who are losing their jobs.