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Labour group pushes for feds to widen EI after coronavirus ends

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One of the country’s largest labour organizations is launching a campaign to coincide with Labour Day to push the Trudeau Liberals for changes to the federal social safety net.

The Canadian Labour Congress is hoping the government widens planned changes to the employment insurance system to provide jobless benefits to any worker in the country even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Read more: Canada adds 246K new jobs in August, unemployment rate falls amid coronavirus

Congress president Hassan Yussuff says many workers and families would not have survived financially so far had it not been for federal aid like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or the wage subsidy.

He also says the labour group will be pushing the government on skills and apprenticeship training particularly to help youth, and a strategy to help visible minorities and immigrants more easily access federal unemployment benefits.

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He calls the requests practical steps the Liberal government could lay out in the throne speech to better prepare the country should a similar economic crisis occur in the future.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that the country gained back 246,000 jobs in August, meaning we’re still down 1.1 million of the three million jobs lost over March and April.

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Labour Day itself normally includes marches through major cities, picnics and gatherings, but the pandemic has scuttled many of those plans for this year. In their place may be some car parades, Yussuff says, and virtual gatherings.

He says this particular Labour Day is one to note how many workers stayed on the job as others were ordered home during lockdowns, citing grocery-store workers, truckers, meat-packers and long-term care home employees, as well as other front-line health care workers.

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Read more: Need a job? Here’s who’s hiring right now in Canada

“This is a moment when the country gets to reflect how can we do better to ensure all workers in this country are treated fairly and decently and, more importantly, they are compensated for the work that they do,” Yussuff said in an interview.

“We know we have gaps, we know we have many issues and what we’re hoping to get the federal government to address in the throne speech is how do we address some of these things to make this country truly a better place for working people (and) for all Canadians.”