Migrant workers to receive EI parental benefits

By Gerald V. Paul

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul

“It’s good news but more must be done,” Christopher Ramsaroop of Justice for Farm Workers told The Camera as the EI Commission reviewed more than 100 cases and agreed to meet demands for parental benefits owing to migrant workers.

Ramsaroop said called the original denial arbitrary and unjust. The Federal Court agreed. A meeting is slated for Oct. 1 to iron out details of the payouts. The 102 claims are worth between $3,000 and $8,000 per worker.

It’s a victory, given some 30,000 migrant workers from the Caribbean and Mexico have been coming to Canada under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program since 1966.

The farm workers contributed an estimated $3.4 million in premiums into the EI system, though they have never been eligible for full EI benefits because they leave Canada at the end of their seasonal employment.

Ramsaroop said migrant workers had been qualified for special benefits such as parental and compassionate compensations for up to 35 weeks even if they were outside Canada in the off season. However, Ottawa changed the Employment Insurance Act in 2012 to impose a residency requirement.

The review followed an order by the Federal Court of Appeal last year requiring the Social security Tribunal to rehear the cases.