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Danny Cavanagh: We can’t pretend the pandemic is over, cuts to CRB must be reversed

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On July 17, the Canada Response Benefit (CRB) for workers was reduced from $500 a week to $300, a 40% reduction for unemployed workers.

1.6 million Canadian workers still don’t have jobs to go back to. Canada Revenue will withhold 20% tax on this amount which means $270.00 after-tax.

A minimum wage worker in our province who gets 40 hours a week will gross $518.00 a week or $26,936 gross income per year. An eligible Canadian can get a maximum CRB of $21,060. Those who received the CERB before the Emergency Response Benefit would get $500 a week before the reduction – $24,000 in an annual income.

The business community keeps saying that workers have it so good, they don’t want to work for minimum wage, and the $2000 a month keeps workers away from returning to the job.

Really? Let’s understand that the majority of low-wage workers do not get 40 hours a week. We have been living in a low-wage economy for far too long. Many workers today are fed up with their mistreatment, and the pandemic has exposed many realities. Many front-line workers put themselves and their families at risk while working through the pandemic. While some received a boost in pay for a few short weeks, they soon realized that boost was about keeping them on the job.

Today’s workforce wants better than low-wage part-time jobs without benefits. They will no longer tolerate being called part-time while working full-time hours. They want paid sick leave and other workplace benefits.

Employers must wake up to these facts. Businesses who offer full-time work at a living wage some benefits will survive. Those who don’t will crash and burn. Employers can keep whining about the CRB all they want. Workers deserve to be looked after by taxpayers just as employers received wage subsidies, rent programs, interest-free loans and the many other programs they received courtesy of us taxpayers.

During the pandemic, many people were grateful to see the help provided to workers and the business community. People didn’t like how profitable corporations lined up at the trough and received cash from the government even though they remained open and prosperous.

The pandemic has shown we all need to make a living wage.

It’s a proven fact that when people have more, they spend more in the local economy. The federal minimum wage is set to increase to $15 an hour on December 29 of this year. That will put full-time workers in the federal sector to an annual income of $31,200. The reality is that the CRB at $2000 a month pre-tax is a low wage and inadequate, let alone a cut to $270.00 a week after-tax or $1080.00 monthy. We can’t pretend the pandemic is over. We need a plan to create better jobs and get our economy working properly.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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