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Employee

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Canada’s Labor Congress chairman says the next government needs to better protect the country’s gig workers by giving them access to social security and worker protection.

Federal officials are currently reviewing the EI system and gig staff space in that system has become one of the thorniest issues. Officials wrestle with how to calculate gig worker bonuses and benefits, or how to determine when someone needs help, as the nature of gig employment has ups and downs.

Ahead of Labor Day, CLC President Bea Bruske said anyone who forms government after the September 20th vote must give gig workers access to the Canadian retirement plan and labor insurance system.

She also said changes are needed to give gig employees the same rights as other workers under labor standards and health and safety laws.

Specifically, it targeted a Conservative proposal to oblige gig economy companies to deposit the equivalent of what they would pay in CPP and EI premiums into a portable savings account for platform workers.

The Conservatives say the money will grow tax-free and be withdrawn from the worker if necessary, but worker groups have spread the proposal and many gig workers have viewed it with disdain.

She said the idea would not give gig workers the same access to protection and benefits as others in the country, leaving them behind as second-class workers.

“We believe that they have to be classified as employees and anchored as employees and therefore have rights and privileges like any other employee,” said Bruske, “instead of creating a secondary group of employees with a separate savings plan that may not benefit them. “

New Democrats have generally relied on union support at the ballot box, but Liberals have been trying to forge close ties with workers’ groups since 2015, and Conservatives are also trying to recruit workers for this campaign.

All the attention to labor issues is welcome, said Bruske, adding that it also underscores how crucial this is for workers after a historic slump in the labor market that the country has yet to catch up.

In July, the economy created 94,000 jobs as public health restrictions were further lifted, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.5 percent, its lowest level since March this year.

The surge left the country 246,400 jobs, or 1.3 percent below pre-pandemic employment levels recorded in February 2020.

Bruske said the parties all have ideas on how to restore these jobs and create more, but additional lost jobs need to be replaced with better ones that offer decent pay, benefits and union formation.

She also said job loss alone is not the only problem that worker groups in the campaign are closely monitoring.

She pointed to the NDP pledge on Pharmacare as an example of a broader workers problem – one that Liberals talked about in 2019 but that is missing from their platform for 2021 – that could be of acute help.

During the pandemic, many workers had to cut their hours as companies saw sales decline related to lockdowns and public health restrictions, with many companies still failing to return to pre-pandemic revenues. As a result, these workers lost their entitlement to benefit plans, which often included financial aid for medication.

She also pointed out climate change and the effects of extreme weather events and forest fires on employers and employees as another topic that unions are carefully examining in platforms.

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