On February 27th, the Government tabled its 369-page Federal Budget. Unfortunately, this budget focuses more on politics than an actual budget; while there is plenty of money allotted to programs, in most instances, there is no clear indication of how these items will be implemented or paid for. The Government believes that the strong economy and more people working will help pay for these programs and help reduce the deficit.
The Government indicates that the GDP is projected to grow by 2.2 per cent in 2018, but the growth rate is expected to fall below two per cent in subsequent years. Taking that into consideration, the Government will continue to run deficits through 2022-23, though the Federal debt-to-GDP ratio will be reduced over that time period.
GENERAL BUDGET INFORMATION
The 2018 Federal Budget is titled Equality and Growth and has an overarching themed focused on women; it aims to support women in the workplace and improve gender equality in order to boost productivity. Additionally, there will be measures to improve Indigenous communities, improve and add new government social programs, and support childcare and healthcare.
Some highlights of the 2018 Budget that may be of general interest:
• The announcement of an advisory council for a new national pharmacare program.
• A five-week parental leave benefit for fathers and other non-birth parents.
• A revamped Canada Workers Benefit for low-income workers.
• The introduction of pay equity legislation for federal and federally-regulated employees.
• Improvements to EI service delivery, and the creation of a new EI Parental Sharing Benefit.
2018 Federal Budget and related downloads – CLICK HERE
Please find below items that may be of interest to the IBEW, and a more detailed summary of the 2018 Federal Budget.
• Enhancing the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP)
• Protecting Canadians’ Pensions
• Gender Wage Gap
• Progress Toward Equal Pay for Equal Work
• Employment Insurance and Working While on Claim
• Helping Women Enter and Succeed in the Trades
• Pre-Apprenticeship Program
• Women in Construction Fund
• International Trade
• Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare
• Phoenix – Stabilizing and Future Transformation of the Federal Government’s Pay Administration
• Temporary Foreign Workers
• Long Term Sustainability of the Coast Guard Fleet
CHAPTER 1 – GROWTH
Enhancing the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP)
Government will propose legislative amendments to the Wage Earner Protection Program Act to increase the maximum payment under the WEPP to seven weeks of Employment Insurance insurable earnings, up from four. Changes will also be made to make eligibility for the Program more equitable, so that workers who are owed wages, vacation, severance or termination pay when their employer files for bankruptcy or enters receivership receive greater support during a difficult time. While this is a step in the right direction, the IBEW feels that more can be done to protect workers who are caught in this vulnerable situation.
Protecting Canadians’ Pensions
In recent years we have seen companies, such as Sears Canada, entering the insolvency process with substantial unfunded pension liabilities. As a result, workers and pensioners who have deferred their wages into paid pension plans over their careers, are faced with unexpected financial losses that impact their retirement security.
Over the coming months, the Federal government will be looking to obtain feedback from pensioners, workers, and companies. They have indicated that they will take a whole-of-government, evidence-based approach towards addressing retirement security for all Canadians. The IBEW will be working with the Canadian Labour Congress, other affiliates and groups such the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) on this matter to ensure workers and pensioners get a fair deal.
Equality in the Workforce
Gender Wage Gap
One of the main causes of the gender wage gap is the undervaluation of the work that has traditionally been done by women. Requiring equal pay for work of equal value is an effective way to fix this gap. To help address this issue, the Government will bring in a legislated proactive pay equity regime in federally regulated sectors, which would apply to approximately 1.2 million employed individuals.
Progress Toward Equal Pay for Equal Work
For every dollar of hourly wages, a man working full-time earns in Canada, a woman working full-time earns about 88 cents. This disparity persists despite the fact that pay equity is a human right entrenched in law.
Budget 2018 will move forward with new proactive pay equity legislation. This will be included in budget implementation legislation. This legislation will draw on models in Ontario and Quebec but will take an innovative approach to ensure that on average, women and men in federally regulated sectors receive the same pay for work of equal value.
To address the complexity of the federal sectors, this legislation would:
• Apply to federal employers with 10 or more employees, with pay equity requirements built as much as possible into existing federal compliance regimes.
• Set out specific timelines for implementation, and compulsory maintenance reviews.
• Include job types such as seasonal, temporary, part-time and full-time positions.
• Ensure that both wages and other benefits are evaluated in a gender-neutral way.
• Repeal previous legislation such as the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act which is inconsistent with the goal of pay equity.
The Government will continue to consult with employers, unions and other stakeholders in the coming months to ensure that the new regime will be applied fairly and will achieve its intended purpose and IBEW Canada will continue to be active on this file.
Women in the Workplace
Recognizing that barriers to women’s labour market participation can be complex, the Government will also host a major symposium on women and the workplace in the spring of 2019. This symposium will bring together leaders in the private and public sectors to discuss and share best practices. The objective of the symposium would be to encourage and provide tools for Canadian employers to address issues faced by women in the workplace, from wage gaps to harassment.
Engaging Men and Boys to Promote Gender Equality
Gender equality is not just about women and girls. That is why the Government of Canada will introduce a strategy focused on men and boys. The Government will provide $1.8 million over two years to Status of Women Canada to develop an engagement strategy for men and boys that promotes equality and pilots innovative, targeted approaches to addressing inequality.
Men and boys have a vital role in creating workplaces that are free of discrimination and in helping to build a society where harassment and gender-based violence are no longer tolerated. They must be part of the solution.
The IBEW can play an important role in promoting gender equality and creating workplaces that are free of discrimination by utilizing programs such as the BuildTogether program undertaken by Canada’s Building Trades Unions.
Skills for Tomorrow’s Economy
Working While on Claim – Employment Insurance (EI)
The EI Working While on Claim pilot project allows claimants to keep 50 cents of their EI benefits for every dollar they earn, up to a maximum of 90 per cent of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate their EI benefit amount. This pilot project is scheduled to expire in August 2018. The Government proposes to introduce amendments to the Employment Insurance Act to make the current EI Working While on Claim pilot rules permanent, providing $351.9 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $80.1 million per year ongoing.
Helping Women Enter and Succeed in the Trades
There is a substantial gender gap in apprenticeship training, with women accounting for only 11 per cent of new registrants in inter-provincially recognized Red Seal skilled trades. This pattern of women’s under-participation in higher-paid, male-dominated trades, has meant that women are not only comparatively underpaid in the trades sectors, but also wrongly perceived as uninterested in or incapable of pursuing careers in male-dominated fields.
Budget 2018 is allocating $19.9 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to pilot an Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women. Under the Grant, women in male-dominated Red Seal trades would receive $3,000 for each of their first two years of training (up to $6,000). This, in combination with the existing Apprenticeship Completion Grant valued at $2,000, will result in a combined $8,000 in support over the course of their training for a female apprentice training to become an electrician, crane operator, pipe fitter or any other Red Seal skilled trade that is male-dominated. Nearly 90 per cent of Red Seal trades would be eligible for the Grant.
Understanding the value and promise of careers in the skilled trades, the Government has included a proposal for a new Pre-Apprenticeship Program which will encourage underrepresented groups—including but not limited to women, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers and persons with disabilities–to explore careers in the skilled trades. Working in partnership with provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions, training providers, unions and employers, the Pre-Apprenticeship Program will help Canadians explore the trades. Budget 2018 provides $46 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $10 million per year thereafter for the Pre-Apprenticeship Program.
Women in Construction Fund
In addition to the above measures, the Government will be launching the Women in Construction Fund in 2018–19, with an investment of $10 million over three years from Employment and Social Development Canada’s existing resources. The Program will build on existing models, such as the BuildTogether Program launched by Canada’s Building Trades Unions, that have proven to be effective in attracting women to the trades. These models provide supports such as mentoring, coaching and tailored supports that help women to progress through their training and find and retain jobs in the trades.
Pursuing New Markets
In addition to NAFTA, CETA and the CPTPP (formerly the TPP), the Government is continuing to pursue other opportunities for free trade agreements around the world, including ongoing exploratory talks with China, and discussions with a number of important partners, and regional groupings such as the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru), MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
IBEW Canada has been extensively involved in ongoing talks concerning NAFTA and CPTPP to date and will continue to monitor progress on other potential trade deals as they arise to ensure that the Minister, along with trade officials, are aware of any concerns of the IBEW and the sectors that could impact our members.
CHAPTER 3 – RECONCILIATION
Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program
The Government proposes to invest $2 billion over five years, and $408.2 million per year ongoing, to support the creation of a new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, which will replace the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy. This includes incremental investments of $447 million over five years, and $99.4 million per year ongoing, and a stronger focus on training for higher-quality, better-paying jobs rather than rapid re-employment.
The Government has consulted with, and heard from, Indigenous partners on the importance of a distinctions-based approach that recognizes the unique needs of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation. To that end, the new program will provide:
• $1.1 billion over five years, and $235.7 million per year ongoing, for a First Nations stream.
• $325 million over five years, and $67 million per year ongoing, for a Métis Nation stream.
• $161.2 million over five years, and $32.6 million per year ongoing, for an Inuit stream.
• $213.4 million over five years, and $45.2 million per year ongoing, for an urban/non-affiliated stream.
These investments will support Indigenous Peoples in developing employment skills and pursuing training for high-quality jobs.
CHAPTER 4 – ADVANCEMENT
Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare
As part of Budget 2018, the Government is announcing the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of a National Pharmacare program. The Government appointed Dr. Eric Hoskins, who recently served as the Minister of Health of Ontario, to chair this initiative.
The IBEW believes that this is a step in the right direction, however, we want some assurances that the advisory council has worker representatives on it to ensure that our voices are heard. The Canadian Labour Congress has undertaken this as their major campaign and was the topic of discussion in their Lobby on Parliament Hill on February 6th, 2018.
Phoenix – Stabilizing and Future Transformation of the Federal Government’s Pay Administration
*Due to the important nature of this topic we ask that you see the additional PDF: Phoenix Pay System , for complete language included on Phoenix pay system in the 2018 Federal Budget.
Employment Insurance Call Centre Accessibility
Budget 2018 proposes to provide an additional $127.7 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, to further improve accessibility and ensure Canadians receive timely and accurate information and assistance with EI benefits.
The IBEW has been working with the EI working group and the EI Commissioner for Workers over the last two years to address a number of items, and this is an example of some of the positive news we have seen on this file. We are hopeful that this will allow more workers to actually speak to someone on the phone or in person regarding their claim.
Temporary Foreign Workers
Budget 2018 proposes to provide $194.1 million over five years, beginning in 2018–19, and $33.19 million per year ongoing, to ensure the rights of temporary foreign workers in Canada are protected and enforced through a robust compliance regime. This funding will support unannounced inspections under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the continued implementation of the International Mobility Program compliance regime, and the ongoing collection of labour market information related to open work permits.
In addition, the Government proposes to invest $3.4 million over two years, beginning in 2018–19, from Employment and Social Development Canada’s existing resources to establish, on a pilot basis, a network of support organizations for temporary foreign workers dealing with potential abuse by their employers.
This is great news for the TFW program that has been in complete disarray over the last decade, if not longer. While these steps are positive, there is still a lot of work that needs to be accomplished on this file. Giving the ability for these TFW’s to contact a support organization dealing with potential abuse by their employers is a huge victory, however, we must remind ourselves that this role was originated by unions across this country who stepped up and spoke out to help out these vulnerable workers.
Long Term Sustainability of the Coast Guard Fleet
Budget 2018 proposes $29 million of funding for Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the Canadian Coast Guard over the next five years to maintain existing fleet capabilities and enable forward planning for a sustainable future.
• 2018-19 will receive $13 million
• 2019-20 will receive $11 million
• 2020-21 – no funding
• 2021-22 will receive $2 million
• 2022-23 will receive $4 million