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Employment Insurance | Civil servants forced to work part-time



(Ottawa) Even though it is already struggling to manage the influx of applications for employment insurance benefits and winter is a peak period, the federal government has just cut a day from the work week of 750 agents in Quebec.

Since Monday, Robert* no longer works 37.5 hours a week, but 30 hours a week, by virtue of a decision by Service Canada managers. In an email sent on January 5 to several hundred employees, that The Press obtained, “the achievement of a balanced budget” is cited as the reason.

“In order to return to the planned budget reference level, all employees […] working as a payment services agent […] will see their schedule change from full-time to part-time (30 h/week) between January 19 and January 23, 2023, regardless of status, ”we read there.

“At this time, we expect these hours to be in effect until the end of March 2023,” the managers conclude in the directive. This obviously caused consternation among the employees concerned, indicates Robert, to whom The Press agreed to give a fictitious first name in order to avoid professional reprisals.

No one understand. Already, providers who call wait 30, 45 minutes, sometimes an hour or more. Inevitably, the quality of service will be reduced. Not only do their files drag on for weeks, months, but there, in addition, we add an additional waiting period.

Robert*, Service Canada employee

Service providers will therefore “still pay the bill”, but not only them, adds Robert. “It’s one day less salary, it has an impact on contributions to pension funds, insurance, etc. There are even some households whose two salaries are affected, ”he explains.

“A slump”

Bloc Québécois MP Louise Chabot, who is tirelessly hounding the Trudeau government on the employment insurance file, is appalled. “I just can’t believe it. It is unthinkable for the government to act like that at Service Canada, which is already a totally counterproductive service for citizens,” she says.

The elected official does not fail to recall that Service Canada fumbled in the passport file last spring, while the increase in requests was predictable as summer approached. Here too, she sees chaos taking shape, because “employment insurance claims are stronger in January because of seasonal employment”.

The Conservative Party and the NDP did not respond to our interview requests.

On the other hand, the National Council of the unemployed and the unemployed was not asked to express its dissatisfaction.

It doesn’t make sense. All this to manage to complete a budget for March 31? It’s small-time calculation.

Pierre Céré, spokesperson for the National Council of the Unemployed

“We are in an administrative slump like we have almost never seen in the history of employment insurance. Do they really know it up there that there is this slump? I don’t know, but I know that from the floor up to certain levels, they know it, ”says the defender of workers’ rights.

A “very temporary measure”

Assistant Deputy Minister for the Quebec region for Service Canada, Michel Laviolette knows that anger is simmering among the approximately 750 employees who are targeted. “I have a lot of empathy for the impact of this decision on our employees,” he said in a videoconference interview.

If he had to act in this way, it is because hiring was “quite aggressive” in Quebec at the start of fiscal year 2022 and retirements were not as numerous as expected. . And he assures that this “very temporary measure” aimed at retaining talent will not penalize service providers.

“The agents assigned to the processing of employment insurance are in no way affected, so we do not expect to have a great impact on service to citizens,” he said, pleading that the shock will be absorbed in particular by the agents. telephone numbers spread across the country, because it is a single telephone number.

“Even there, there is a lack of people, however, testifies Robert. And that’s what they tell us to tell the service providers: that we’re sorry, that we’re understaffed, that the deadlines are longer than usual, that things are on their way, that no need to worry…”

Money pledges

In last fall’s budget update, the Trudeau government proposed a $1 billion payment to Service Canada “to speed up the processing of Employment Insurance and Old Age Security claims while reducing backlog of employment insurance claims.

We will have to see if these sums will appear in the next budget, in the spring.

*Fictitious first name

Learn more

  • 38 minutes
    Average wait time to speak to an EI agent, Monday, January 16.


  • 76.7%
    Between 1er April and December 31, 2022, Service Canada processed 76.7% of EI applications within 28 days.


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