Federal, provincial ministers meet to discuss future of national employment programs
Ontario’s labour groups are demanding the federal government find new cash for the Canada Job Grant program.
Last week, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Unifor and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario sent a message to employment and social development minister, Jason Kenney, calling for a change in funding for the national jobs program.
Instead of absorbing funds earmarked for training and employment services (under the Labour Market Agreement), labour groups have said the government needs to come up with another source of income for the Canada Job Grant.
Otherwise, vulnerable workers will suffer, said OFL president Sid Ryan.
“The Canada Job Grant is misleading Canadians,” he said. “Under the guise of addressing skills shortages, it will actually divert crucial funding for literacy training and skills upgrading away from vulnerable workers who need it the most – women, immigrants, young workers and older workers will be left out in the cold.”
As part of the federal government’s Economic Action Plan, the Canada Job Grant would allow companies with vacancies to train workers to fill the positions. The company would pay one-third of training costs, while the remaining two-thirds would be funded by both the federal and provincial governments.
But the premiers echoed concerns raised by labour groups and threatened to boycott the program back in October, saying the jobs grant would take away funds from current training programs and run out small businesses.
Following last week’s meeting of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (comprised of federal and provincial ministers responsible for labour), Kenney said there is room for flexibility.
“We agreed to continue discussing renewal of the Labour Market Agreements as one of many tools to help prepare Canadians for available jobs,” Kenney said. “I reiterated the federal government’s openness to flexible approaches to deliver the proposed Canada Job Grant, the goal of which is to increase employer investment in job training, while ensuring that those who participate get a guaranteed job at the end of their training.”
He added all parties need to work together to harmonize apprenticeship training and certification requirements, such as on-the-job hours and apprentice-journeyman ratios – and to find ways to up the completion rates.
The Forum of Labour Market Ministers is slated to meet next summer.