Employment Insurance Changes May Drive Marine Industry Employees Out

The August 2012 issue of Boating Industry Canada magazine is devoted to alerting the industry to changes in Canada’s Employment Insurance program that could drive literally hundreds of workers out of our marine industry.

Ontario and Quebec seasonal marine industry workers are likely to be hardest hit.

A July 27 article from The Canadian Press reflected the concerns raised in both Western and in Atlantic Canada.

When the changes were first proposed, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the intent was get Canadians off EI and into jobs they qualify for.

The changes were part of the Harper Government’s Omnibus Budget Bill passed in June and one of the significant changes was that repeat EI claimants like seasonal workers might be required to take work either at lower pay scales, or that was farther from where they lived.

Canada’s marine industry already is suffering from a significant shortage of skilled workers. We also know many workers are laid off through the winter months. The big difference for Ontario or Quebec marine industry workers, compared to seasonal workers in the Atlantic fishery for example, is that there is plenty of other work available in Ontario and Quebec, although perhaps at lower pay scales, or much farther from where our marine workers now live.

Marinas and yards who lay off their workers this winter, may never get them back because they will be forced into finding other winter or 12-month employment. And, in Ontario and Quebec, there are other employment opportunities. That is less true in some other areas.

Premier Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island found some agreement from one of his western counterparts over federal changes to employment insurance that he believes don’t take into account the country’s different regions.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford said the changes, which hit so-called repeat claimants such as seasonal workers the hardest, don’t account for a wide variety of economies.

She said while all premiers are focused on improving their economies and ensuring Canadians can live where they want, EI changes aren’t the right way to do it.

Mr. Ghiz said common sense wasn’t used when making the changes to the program for seasonal workers. P.E.I.’s three largest industries are tourism, agriculture and fishing, all of which are seasonal.

Ms. Redford said some changes also don’t take into consideration the fact that not everyone is willing to relocate.

“There’s no doubt that there are people who live in this country who work in seasonal employment … who are not going to choose to live in other parts of the province or country and we have to respect that,” she said.

For our marine industry workers, the best solution is to act now, to secure winter work supporting 12-month employment. If our industry waits until the winter is upon us, it will be too late.

Watch for the August 2012 issue of Boating Industry Canada magazine mailing this week.

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