The United Steelworkers union (USW) is warning the federal government that its new Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program (CEWS) can be misused and abused if it is not carefully designed to prioritize workers’ incomes rather than profits for businesses and corporations.
This health crisis has brought on a real economic crisis for workers and households across this country. With the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs due to government-mandated measures needed to fight this pandemic, millions of Canadians are looking to the government to help support them in paying their day-to-day bills and housing. They have no other place to turn and the Canadian public expects the government to provide this extraordinary support. Canadians believe this is exactly what governments are for.
"The revised decision to provide workers throughout the economy with a wage subsidy of 75% was the right decision. If designed properly with individuals’ incomes in mind, rather than benefiting corporate profits, this program could be extremely helpful to working people across this country," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.
"However, to make sure this aid goes to workers and is not eaten up by employer profiteering, the program needs a principle of ‘workers first.’ Safeguards must be put in place to ensure workers’ incomes, and not profits, are the beneficiaries," Neumann emphasized.
The government must mandate the following rules as required throughout CEWS:
- All workers who were employed as of March 1 (not March 15) must be covered.
- Employers must have their 25% top up mandated (like other countries).
- There must be no layoffs or firings by the employer during compensation.
- There must be no cuts to pay, benefits or pension contributions.
- There must be no outsourcing or offshoring by participating employers.
- No reopening of collective agreements.
- No increases to CEO or management compensation.
- No dividend payments for at least a year after receiving CEWS.
- Wage subsidy funds must not be used for debt repayment.
- All employers must provide detailed payroll information for each pay period.
- All CEWS applications and payments must be made public.
- Any breaking of these rules must result in penalty and disqualification from participation.
"Without these strong regulations, this very positive program will end up betraying the objectives Canadians are expecting from their government during this crisis and their time of need," said Neumann.
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, email@example.com