Harper government changes Employment Insurance into workfare
For those who have not heard, the government is changing EI into a conditional program where if you lose your job you will be connected to an employer, for example, one who was using foreign temporary workers, and you will have to take that job. Once connected your benefits will cease.
EI rules are clear: "You cannot work full-time while receiving regular benefits."
This means that if you had a good job your benefits could have been a great deal more than minimum wage. This change therefore effectively reduces your insured coverage from a percentage of your income to minimum wage for hard labour.
Some will want to question the obvious unfairness of having a premium that some pay more for (because of their higher income) but can not get a higher benefit for if everyone is provided the same hard labour take-it-or-leave-it option. EI is also not a tax-- because it if were it would be regressive since after a certain level of income you no longer have to pay. EI is being changed in to a repressively taxed workfare system.
Conservatives think this is great as it will serve several purposes;
- it will avoid the need to bring in as many foreign workers (This ought to be especially satisfactory to racists).
- it will provide low-wage serfs for labour businesses
- it will undermine any labour demands -- nobody will ask for luxuries like workplace safety or wages above minimum
- people will not want to support unions because if they lose their jobs they will become servants of labour camps (farm work, picking mushrooms etc.)
But Conservatives don't understand what EI is. EI is a part of the social safety net. It is a personal social safety net so if you lose your job you have an opportunity for a time to try to get another in your field or income level. They get that and of course, heartless as they are they want to destroy it. But the part they don't get is that EI is actually less of a safety net for individuals than it is for the economy itself. I'll explain:
EI does not insure you, it insures your job so you only get coverage if your job goes not if you quit or are fired for cause. It offers a time to get work but there are no guarantees you will be able to. Many people who lose their jobs don't get EI. Many run out at the end without finding a job. But also many do get a new job during the EI coverage period.
But EI is a net for the economy and for communities. If a large number of people are laid off, EI delays the full impact so that some of those people can save their income status by finding other employment at their income level. It allows a chance for a community to not impoverish itself when a major employer goes down or in times of great difficulty. It allows individual workers conditions that might allow them to do a job search rather than taking the first job at far less than what they were earning.
So what happens when you take that away?
Workers without EI forced into hard labour will no longer have the chance of stopping their spiral down to poverty. Almost instantly they will become minimum wage workers with all the issues of the lack of income mobility against them. They will not have time to save themselves from economic ruin or the supports to lift themselves up on. For the economy, this is devastating. This would in any community that has a large number of job losses call the bluff of the real estate market that thinks that housing can cost more than 10 times the average annual wage. When a person becomes overnight a minimum wage labour worker their mortgage goes unpaid. their house gets foreclosed if they have one. Landlord does not get paid.
Enough of that and the entire market is in freefall. Supporting businesses in the community also lose their safety net-- the one that keeps the economy alive while workers adjust. The ripple effects through the economy are dire. It should be noted that the US recent economic collapse was accelerated in part because they have fewer safety nets. The new EI changes in Canada appear to offer Canadians who lose their employment less than what Americans get. They at least will still have insurance income for a time so they can find a good job.
Apart from the individual pain which is obvious the community pain is dramatic with such a policy. When you have so many people who on the loss of their employment suddenly become minimum wage workers, you have created an economy that is a deck of cards in a windstorm. People who are still employed will not be spared. If enough people lose their jobs and their houses then those who have houses will lose their equity and possibly their ability to maintain financing. This would not be an orderly housing crash but a disorderly take down of the underpinnings of the national and local economy. Ironically, if there are a lot of people losing their jobs even the rich will suffer from the economic blows.The fear and stress of no longer having real employment insurance contributes to community stress that manifests it self in many ways-- all negative.
The Conservatives don't seem to understand what EI is. It is a key component in the stability of the Canadian economy. It is what separates our economy from massive cyclical ruination that other countries see. Ukraine for example saw an increase in housing prices in good times by several hundred percent and then it unravel in a single year. This is what we will see if we remove income insurance which is what EI is.
As for the social impacts on individuals and their families of replacing EI with workfare-- while these may not be a concern to selfish right wing extremists, we should at least mention them for people who actually give a damn about other human beings.
- a removal of the underpinnings of the social determinants of health
- an introduction of stress as workers know if they lose their jobs their lives can be ruined
- instant poverty for whole families
- likely a return to the trauma of job loss including high suicide rates etc.
- a chill on any workers' rights including workplace safety
This is, in my opinion, the greatest attack on the middle income group (what some call the middle class) in a generation. Those behind the proposal don't likely realize that it is in fact a full frontal assault on the economy itself.
A side note: those who said that the Conservatives under a majority would be no worse than they were in a minority have been proven wrong.
I think this is something we need to discuss.
NOTE: I have written this as an article so once again I am sorry that this is a long post. I guess there is a question as to whether it is ok to use this place to float articles and say discuss -- which is often what I do since I don't publish elsewhere and I am not a "Rabble writer." If I were I would post the article somewhere else and post a link saying here can we discuss. So my apologies to those who do not like that I post an article-length post to start a discussion. At some point I will try to find a place I can post articles but for now I am still doing it here...