During the Winter and Spring of this year, teachers were alerted to major changes in Legislation, the proposed Employment Insurance (EI) Act, which, if passed, would negatively affect the ability of substitute and replacement teachers to avail of Employment Insurance benefits. Teacher groups across Canada lobbied vigorously against these proposed changes.
A brief was presented to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. In the end, these protests did not achieve the desired results. The legislation, unchanged, was passed this Summer. HRDC and Revenue Canada were not prepared to write into the Act a national standard of daily hours worked by teachers over and above that proscribed by provincial legislation and/or collective agreements. In this province, that number is five hours per day. Using the new hour system for benefit eligibility (effective January 1, 1997), a minimum of 420 hours (equating to 84 teaching days) very few non full-time teachers will qualify for EI Benefits.
But a possibility for change still exists. The new EI Legislation permits the employee group, in this case the NLTA, to enter into negotiations with the employer(s) with a view to agreeing on a set number of daily working hours which would include time in excess of that currently set in provincial legislation and/or collective agreements. Any "reasonable" agreement between these two groups would be accepted by HRDC and Revenue Canada for the purpose of counting those hours towards the minium of 420 hours for benefit eligibility. Although the Federal Government was not prepared to legislate a national standard of daily hours worked by teachers, it has left that to the individual employee group and employer(s) to work out between themselves.
NLTA will now initiate discussions with the School Boards Association and Government on this issue. We are hoping to be able to come to a "reasonable" agreement on the number of daily hours worked by teachers for EI purposes before the January 1, 1997, effective date. (The formula used by HRDC to arrive at 420 hours is: 5 x 7 hour day = 35 hours/week x 12 weeks = 420 hours). However, even if the parties were to agree that, for example, 7 hours per day would be counted for EI purposes and not 5 hours per day, this would reduce the number of required days before EI eligibility down to only 60, which equates to approximately one-third of the school year. This will still not alleviate the problem which the new hourly based EI eligibility regulations presents to non full-time teachers. We will continue to update you on any progress made.