‘Horrified’: Labor advocates say government is putting companies above workers with latest subsidy announcement


Labor advocates say that with its latest grant announcement, the federal government is leaving workers for the benefit of businesses.

Last week, the federal government announced that wage and rental subsidies would end on October 23, along with the Canadian recovery benefit, although sickness and care benefits would remain until May.

But while the business world got a replacement in the form of targeted wage and rent support for hard-hit sectors, workers got a foreclosure benefit that experts say may never be used.

Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers’ Action Center, said the government’s recent announcement was a break from the pattern throughout the pandemic, where it would extend or replace both business and employee benefits – this time around, it’s mainly the companies that are being extended benefits, she said.

“I was horrified,” Ladd said.

The latest move will force many people to make tough choices about their housing and work options, Ladd said, potentially putting themselves and their families at risk.

Ladd said he felt the government bowed to the idea that Employment Benefits kept workers at home.

Jim Stanford, director of the Center for Future Work and former Unifor economist, said the claim that COVID-19 income support has caused a labor shortage is incorrect and ignores the fact that the subsidy salary paid more than any other COVID. -19 support measure.

To date, the wage subsidy program has disbursed over $ 95 billion, roughly equivalent to the amount awarded by CRB and CERB combined, or roughly $ 108 billion.

“Companies have received as much support to survive this pandemic as workers. But we don’t hear the same… rhetoric about them, ”Stanford said in an email.

This contrast in attitudes is reflected in the latest government subsidy announcement, Stanford said, where workers were cut off from “turkey cold” as hard-hit industries received continued targeted support.

It’s good that these companies continue to receive support, but workers should too, he said.

“The federal government’s decision reflected the sense of moral panic that has been deliberately created in recent months over the so-called labor shortage and the supposed deterrent effect of COVID benefits for workers,” Stanford said. “Unfortunately, the government seems to have listened to this.”

As for the lockdown benefit, Ladd said it remains to be seen what the criteria are, as Parliament won’t even resume debate until mid-November. She asked why the government had not at least extended the CRB so far.

David McDonald, senior economist at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), agreed that it is not clear whether the foreclosure benefit will even be used.

In the meantime, he estimates that about a third of companies that previously benefited from the wage subsidy will be eligible for the new, more targeted programs.

And yet, 880,000 CRB beneficiaries, according to McDonald’s analysis, were left out with the end of the CRB. Contrary to popular belief, many of those beneficiaries worked, said McDonald, with CRB filling in the gaps.

Tracey Crosson, the administrator of a Facebook support group for people on income assistance, is hosting a virtual event with former CRB beneficiaries on Friday to urge the government to restore the allowance and consider a solution longer term such as a universal basic income. .

“It’s fucked up,” she said. “These people fall through the cracks. “

Crosson hears people say daily that they will soon be homeless without financial support, and she predicts pressure on welfare programs in the future.

British Columbia resident Krystal B, who did not want her last name used for security reasons, is one such person.

She applied for more than 200 jobs in two months, she said, while awaiting her return from work – she was a successful photographer before COVID-19 but most of her work relied on festivals, events and trips.

She also copes with the long-term health side effects of COVID-19 and takes care of her son, so her employment options are limited. And she is not eligible for care allowance because her son is over 12 years old.

Krystal is afraid of losing her home and is afraid of what will happen to her family.

“The government must do better.

Crosson rejects the idea that the CRB kept workers at home.

“It doesn’t make people lazy. Everyone wants to work, ”Crosson said.

Unlike business grants, sickness benefits and care benefits, the use of which has been steadily declining, when CRB ended it was still being used at around 70% of its maximum number, McDonald said.

This indicates that a huge need is now not being met, he said: “A lot of people were counting on this.”

McDonald said the government could have introduced a more targeted benefit for workers, as it did for businesses.

When Parliament returns, pressure could be exerted on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to either reinstate the CRB or accelerate the implementation of his promised employment insurance program for the self-employed, which is expected to come into effect in 2023, McDonald said.

Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labor Congress, also predicts that there will be pressure on the federal government to restore that support when Parliament returns, but is not optimistic.

She agreed that the shortage is not necessarily workers, but secure, well-paying, full-time jobs.

“Employers are clamoring for workers, but at the same time, full-time, well-paying jobs… are scarce. “

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