News Briefs

Work-sharing extended by feds; City fires 9 workers for benefits fraud; Alberta increases minimum wage; Saskatchewan welcomes Ontarians; Living wage won’t help poor: Report

Work-sharing extended by feds

Ottawa — To help employers weather the recession with fewer layoffs, the federal government is extending the work-sharing program offered through employment insurance to one year. Under the program, employees and the employer agree to a reduced workweek in lieu of layoffs and EI is paid to employees for the hours they’re no longer working. Currently, work-sharing agreements last for 26 weeks, with the option of a 12-week extension. Employers now have the option to extend the agreements by a further 14 weeks, for a total of 52 weeks. The extensions are in effect from Feb. 1, 2009, to April 3, 2010.

City fires 9 workers for benefits fraud

Toronto — The City of Toronto has fired nine employees for allegedly submitting fraudulent benefits claims. The employees were originally put on paid leave on Feb. 20 and were fired March 2 following an audit by the city’s benefits provider, Manulife Financial. City officials won’t say how many fraudulent claims were filed or how much money was involved. In 2008, there were 619 complaints made to Toronto’s fraud and waste hotline, 42 of which were substantiated, according to a recent report submitted to the city’s audit committee. So far, three employees have been fired as a result of complaints and 18 others have received a range of discipline — from a letter in their file to a four-week suspension without pay.

Alberta increases minimum wage

Edmonton — Alberta is increasing its minimum wage by five per cent to $8.80 an hour on April 1. The increase from $8.40 reflects the growth in the province’s average weekly earnings in 2008. The majority of Alberta’s minimum wage earners are 15 to 19 years old and work in the accommodation and food services industry. The average hourly wage in Alberta is $23.90. “We want to ensure that Albertans earning the minimum wage are as protected as possible during these changing times,” said Hector Goudreau, Minister of Employment and Immigration. “While a vast majority of Albertans earn much more than the minimum wage, we can’t forget about those in lower-income occupations.”

Saskatchewan welcomes Ontarians

Regina — Following Saskatchewan’s recruitment efforts at job fairs in Ontario last fall, more than 80 families have relocated to the province. Saskatchewan has become home to a variety of skilled workers from Ontario, ranging from information technology professionals and engineers to skilled tradespeople, said Premier Brad Wall. They are now living and working in Saskatchewan cities such as Saskatoon and Regina, and in smaller communities such as Frontier and Langbank. The province will continue to encourage Ontarians to take jobs in Saskatchewan by joining a contingent of provincial employers at the National Job Fair in Toronto on March 31 and April 1.

Living wage won’t help poor: Report

Calgary — A living wage policy in Calgary would help very few poor Calgarians while cementing uncompetitive practices at City Hall and drawing attention away from more effective anti-poverty initiatives, according to a study from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Why A ‘Living Wage’ Won’t Kill Poverty states attempts to create a new municipal living wage of $13.25 would have limited benefits because the change would only affect the wages of casual and on-call staff. Anti-poverty policies are most effective when they are well-defined and highly targeted to those most in need, which is not the case with a living wage, said study author Peter Shawn Taylor. A living wage policy can also lead to reduced skills training, higher unemployment among low-skilled workers and lower business profits, he said. More effective ways to help the working poor include the federal Working Income Tax Benefit as well as provincial programs focused on welfare-to-work transitions, said Taylor.

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