‘Without a dramatic change of tack, in a few more days laid-off workers will be left with empty cupboards and bare dinner tables’
The House of Commons is nearing a deal on an $82-billion aid package for workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
All parties agreed on an aid package under the COVID-19 bill that will improve the workers’ and businesses’ access to Employment Insurance and other financial support programs, according to a CBC article.
During the parliamentary session, the Liberal government tried to justify new powers which would allow Bill Morneau, minister of finance, to spend freely by citing the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, according to the report. The Opposition Conservatives said Ottawa was “upending centuries of parliamentary tradition by allowing ministers to spend without sign off from MPs.”
On March 23, workers' union Unifor asked the MPs to use the special Tuesday Parliamentary session to move quickly on reform and pass emergency measures. The union wants the MPs to help ensure displaced working families receive decent paycheques through whatever means necessary, including via existing employer payroll systems or direct payments to households.
"Canada's workers were feeling the squeeze before they were forced out of a job by this pandemic. Without a dramatic change of tack, in a few more days laid-off workers will be left with empty cupboards and bare dinner tables," said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor.
Citing a survey from MNP, Unifor said that two-thirds of the federal support package announced by the government on March 18 is not income support but will instead be delivered in tax deferrals to businesses and individuals. New income support programs for those who do not qualify for E.I., meanwhile, will take weeks to even begin accepting applications.
"Last week, more than 500,000 individual E.I. claims were filed and there is no reason to expect that number to slow down," said Lana Payne, secretary-treasurer at Unifor. "Millions more will have their work interrupted by this pandemic. The E.I. system, once overwhelmed, is now completely under water."