“Keep your promises,” say laid-off workers

Ontario’s Second Career training program in doubt, while federal EI training programs don’t meet expectations
Toronto, On — Public and private sector unions including the IAMAW as well as laid off workers are calling on the provincial and federal governments to keep their word and to ensure that those who were promised training get it.
“Too many workers in general are employed in low-skill, low-wage jobs,” says IAMAW Education Representative Gord Falconer. “We have a government who promised to assist these workers when they lost their jobs by raising their skill levels but now they’re changing their plans!”
Unemployed workers may be denied access to a provincial program that promised unemployed workers a second chance with training for a new career. Under the program, workers are eligible for up to $28,000 over two years to enrol in full-time training. But, according to the Ontario Federation of Labour, a surge in take-up rates has put current and future access to the provincial program in jeopardy, while strict eligibility criteria for the federal pilot projects has made them inaccessible for most.
According to the OFL, dozens of unemployed workers who have re-organized their lives and secured their necessary upgrading, have been put on hold and may be denied access to the program altogether, even though they meet all aspects of the eligibility criteria currently set out for the program.
The Ontario Second Career Program was launched in June 2008, and was aimed at workers affected by job loss prior to the onset of the global recession. In the five years leading up to October 2008, Canada had already lost some 400,000 manufacturing and forestry sector jobs. With the onset of the global crisis, Canada lost an additional 400,000 jobs—in only four months.
In the meantime, the federal pilot programs extending retraining benefits to long-tenured workers are only available to those with claims activated between January 25, 2009 and May 30, 2010, closing the door to the thousands of workers who need retraining, but who were laid off before January 25, 2009. As a consequence, the federal program is only assisting a fraction of those in need. Workers in Ontario want the provincial and federal governments to keep their promises.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan must release adequate funds to ensure:
• That all those who are currently in line for the Second Career program are processed using program’s original, eligibility criteria;
• That the funding include adequate income support no less than that provided under Employment Insurance; and
• That staffing levels are increased immediately to expedite application processing.

The federal government must move immediately to:
• Increase the number of workers who get Employment Insurance while re-training.
• Relax eligibility restrictions on its Severance Investment for Training Initiative (SITI) and Extended EI & Training Incentive (EEITI) pilot projects.
• Increase the transfer payments it has committed to the provinces under the respective Labour Market Agreements