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Planned EI Changes Must Extend to Tourism, Hotel and Restaurant Workers, USW Says

MONTREAL – New federal support for fisheries workers, including greater access to Employment Insurance benefits, must also be available to tourism, hotel and restaurant workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new supports that include changing Employment Insurance rules so that fish harvesters, whose seasonal incomes will be affected by the pandemic, can apply for EI benefits based on their earnings from previous years.

The USW, which represents thousands of workers in the tourism, hotel and restaurant sector, is calling for such supports to be extended to these workers, whose livelihoods also are at risk due to the pandemic.

Guy Gendron, President of USW/Syndicat des Métallos Local 9400, representing 4,000 workers in the tourism and hospitality sector in Quebec, said 90% of his members have been laid off, with the sector at a virtual standstill since the crisis began.

"This is a crisis that could affect tourism, hotels and restaurants for some time,” Gendron said. “The summer season is when many of our members accumulate the necessary hours needed for EI eligibility, allowing them to receive benefits when temporary layoffs occur during off-peak periods. This will be very difficult for many of these workers this summer.”

There is an urgent need for the federal government to address the issue of EI eligibility for workers in other sectors, in addition to the fishing industry, the USW says.

"At the moment, many of our members are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is scheduled to end in October. As a first step, we are asking that the program be extended,” Gendron said.

“We are also asking for a review of the eligibility criteria for workers who could not qualify for Employment Insurance this year due to the crisis. This is particularly the case for those who work in part-time or casual jobs. The government must recognize that seasonal work also is a reality in the tourism, hotel and restaurant sector," he added.

The USW/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the FTQ (Quebec Federation of Labour), is the largest private-sector union in Quebec. It represents more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

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For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca

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