Woolwich councillors want some time to reflect before wading into the Employment Insurance debate.
Asked this week by the Waterloo Regional Labour Council to pass a resolution in support of EI reform, councillors deferred the matter until they could investigate issues more deeply before taking a position.
The labour organization is calling for standardized qualification and payment options across the country: working 360 hours to qualify for benefits, extending the duration of payments to at least 50 weeks, provide an additional year of benefits when national unemployment exceeds 6.5 per cent, and increase benefits to at least 60 per cent of normal earnings.
Currently, the system is a hodgepodge, with qualification hours and duration of benefits differing dramatically across the country.
Years of prosperity and a strong labour market in this region mean workers must put in 700 to 900 hours before qualifying for EI; if eligible, the unemployed can collect for only 27 weeks, the labour council’s Doug Butler said in council chambers Tuesday night.
“Seventy per cent of applicants in this zone don’t quality for EI,” he said, adding welfare rolls will continue to grow due to those who don’t qualify for EI and those whose benefits will run out long before the economy improves.
“The poverty rate in this region will grow.”
An improved EI system, he said, could act as a real stimulus to the economy, as opposed to the projects that have been slow to get going.
After the presentation, Coun. Mark Bauman called for a staff to look into the resolution before bringing it back to a future council meeting for discussion.