A re-elected Liberal Government will help seasonal workers affected by the ‘black hole’ phenomenon to collect enough weeks to qualify for Employment Insurance.
Gallant explained that a re-elected Liberal Government will dedicate funds recently committed by the federal government on August 20, 2018, to the creation of a provincial program that pairs workers with organizations including non-profits, municipalities, and First Nations requiring labour. New Brunswick expects to receive between $4-5 million from this federal fund, which the Liberals will use to provide additional weeks of work at up to $14 per hour for a maximum of 40 hours a week, enabling workers to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits.
The new program will be a temporary measure intended to provide short-term support until a more permanent solution is found by the federal government, which is responsible for the Employment Insurance program. Gallant added that, in addition to providing wage support and additional weeks for claimants, the program will have the added benefit of providing targeted organizations with additional support in the form of workers.
Employment Insurance falls under the purview of the federal government, however, the Gallant Liberals have consistently advocated on the behalf of New Brunswickers to ensure that this program meets the needs of our province’s workers. The work carried out by the New Brunswick provincial Liberals on this file, including placing pressure on the federal government, is a continuation of our response to unwelcome
reforms imposed by the Harper Government. Following the election of the Trudeau Government, our efforts bore fruit, resulting in the federal Liberals’ cancellation of the Conservative-era reform.
The Gallant Government has worked steadfastly since last fall to address the issue of the ‘black hole’ with the federal government. For instance, in order to demonstrate their support, Liberals MLAs have attended each of the demonstrations that have been organized by workers, and they, alongside Labour Minister Gilles LePage, have had meetings with the Seasonal Workers’ Action Committee on Employment Insurance, in addition to a roundtable with workers, employers, and provincial and federal civil servants. In addition, LePage wrote to his federal counterpart, Jean-Yves Duclos, to express his support for workers and demand rapid action from the federal government, a sentiment that was also expressed through a Liberal motion tabled by Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou MLA Wilfred Roussel in New Brunswick’s Legislative Assembly in February 2018. This pressure led to the federal government committing $240 million in its 2018-19 budget to help address the ‘black hole’ issue. In March, the Gallant Government re-purposed New Brunswick’s share of that funding to create three programs that provided income support and training for EI claimants affected by the gap in benefits.
“This Liberal Government has worked hard to create job opportunities for New Brunswickers,” said Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou Liberal candidate Wilfred Roussel. “Ensuring that workers in New Brunswick are well supported and protected will help us continue to grow the economy in a way that ensures fairness for everyone.”
Over the course of its previous mandate, the Gallant Government has made protecting workers a priority. In 2017, a Government-Labour Steering Committee was established to give workers a voice at the table when decisions are being made. As a result of that partnership, the Gallant Government has accomplished the following over the course of its previous mandate:
- Raised the minimum wage on four separate occasions, representing a 12.5 per cent bump and increasing the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage earner by over $2,500 more per worker;
- Caught up with the rest of the country by becoming one of the last provinces in Canada to have first contract arbitration legislation;
- Provided paid leave and job protection for victims of domestic, partner and sexual violence who need to take time off of work;
- Added workplace harassment and violence protections to the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
- Supported enhancements to the Canadian Pension Plan;
- Expanded pay equity to all parts of the civil service by December 2018; and
- Created a Family Day holiday in February.
Earlier in this campaign, Gallant also announced that a re-elected Liberal Government will increase the minimum wage even further in its next mandate, moving from the current $11.25 to $14 per hour by 2022. Gallant also recently announced that a re-elected Liberal Government will modernize various labour laws with the ultimate goal of ensuring that New Brunswick workers have at least the same protections as Canadians in other parts of the country.
Under this Liberal Government, wages have grown every year and, in 2016, average hourly earnings in New Brunswick grew by 3.2 per cent, which was the largest increase among Canadian provinces. In 2018 the average hourly earnings in New Brunswick are on track to grow by more than 3 per cent yet again.