Union Representing Port of Churchill Workers Express Frustration with Politicians, Call for Employment Insurance Zone

PRESS RELEASE. Tuesday, August 30, 2016

WINNIPEG – The union representing Port of Churchill workers is increasingly frustrated with inaction from provincial and federal governments following the Port’s seasonal closure, and is calling for the immediate creation of a federal Employment Insurance zone.

“Our members and the community of Churchill Manitoba are our first priority and yet neither level of government wants to meet with us,” said Teresa Eschuk, Regional Vice-President of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE), a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). Repeated attempts to meet with elected federal and provincial leaders have been met with silence or buck-passing.

The UCTE/PSAC is calling for emergency measures from federal and provincial authorities to reopen the Port and its grain shipping activities this season. The UCTE/PSAC is also calling for a blanket zone expansion of the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program for workers in the area.

Most laid off workers at the Port are not entitled to EI benefits because their seasonal work is too short to meet EI qualifications. Designating Churchill an EI zone—similar to the 12 zones across Canada that the Liberals have already applied this status to—will make it easier for unemployed Churchill workers to meet the requirements for benefits and receive them for a longer period of time.

Decisions made by previous Liberal and Conservative governments have led to the failure of the Port, so the onus is now on federal officials to take responsibility and act immediately. Instead, the office of Minister Jim Carr informed the UCTE/PSAC that Minister Carr is unable to meet with the union as he was meeting with other Churchill stakeholders.

“We have been told that we are not stakeholders in the process and so there is no need to meet with us. We represent these workers! If 10 percent of a community’s population is not a stakeholder, then who is?” said Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region.

Attempts to meet with the provincial Progressive Conservatives have also been met with silence. The UCTE/PSAC have met with the provincial NDP’s official opposition labour critic, Tom Lindsey, along with federal NDP MP Niki Ashton and the Mayor of Churchill, Mike Spence. The UCTE/PSAC will be releasing details of a long-term proposal for Churchill in the coming weeks.