Employment Insurance |  Officials forced to work part-time

Employment Insurance | Officials forced to work part-time

(Ottawa) Despite already struggling to cope with the influx of unemployment insurance claims and winter being a peak time, the federal government just cut the work week of 750 agents in Quebec by one day.

Posted at 6:00 am


As of Monday, Robert* went from working 37.5 hours a week to 30 hours a week, following a decision by Service Canada managers. In an email sent to several hundred employees by La Presse on January 5, the reason given was “achieving a balanced budget”.

“To return to the planned budget reference level, all employees […] working as a payment service provider […] switch from full-time to part-time (30 h/week) between January 19 and 23, 2023, regardless of status,” it says.

“At this point in time, we assume that these opening hours will apply until the end of March 2023,” the managers conclude in the statement. Apparently, this caused dismay among the employees concerned, says Robert, who La Presse agreed to use a fictitious first name to avoid professional reprisals.

Nobody understands. Even providers who call wait 30, 45 minutes, sometimes an hour or more. Service quality is inevitably reduced. Not only do your files drag on for weeks, months, but we add an additional waiting time.

Robert*, Service Canada employee

Service providers will therefore “still foot the bill”, but not only they, adds Robert. “It’s a day less salary, it affects contributions to pension funds, insurance, etc. There are even some households that have two salaries affected,” he explains.

“A Burglary”

Bloc Québécois MP Louise Chabot, who has tirelessly prosecuted the Trudeau government over the labor insurance file, is appalled. “I just can’t believe it. It is unthinkable that the government would do this to Service Canada, which is already a totally counterproductive service to citizens,” she says.

The official-elect does not fail to recall that Service Canada fiddled with the passport file last spring, while the surge in requests over the summer was predictable. Here, too, she sees chaos, because “employment insurance claims are stronger in January because of seasonal work”.

The Conservative Party and the NDP did not respond to our interview requests.

On the other hand, the National Council of the Unemployed and Unemployed was not asked to express its dissatisfaction.

It makes no sense. All this to finalize a budget for March 31st? It’s small calculation.

Pierre Céré, spokesman for the National Council of the Unemployed

“We are in an administrative crisis the likes of which we have almost never seen in the history of employment insurance. Do they up there really know this burglary is happening? I don’t know, but I know they know from the ground up to certain levels,” says the workers’ rights defender.

A “very temporary measure”

Michel Laviolette, deputy assistant minister for the Quebec region for Service Canada, knows anger is simmering among the approximately 750 employees affected. “I fully understand the impact of this decision on our employees,” he said in a video conference interview.

If he had to act that way, it’s because Quebec’s hiring at the start of fiscal 2022 was “pretty aggressive” and retirements weren’t as numerous as expected. And he assures that this “very temporary measure” to retain talent will not disadvantage service providers.

“The clerks responsible for processing employment insurance are not affected in any way, so we don’t expect a major impact on citizen service,” he said, arguing that the shock should be absorbed by clerks in particular, who are spread across the country because there is a only phone number is

“There’s a lack of people there, too,” testifies Robert. And that’s what they tell us, we should tell the service providers: that we’re sorry, that we’re understaffed, that the deadlines are longer than usual, that things are on the way, that you don’t have to worry…”

promise of money

In last fall’s budget update, the Trudeau administration proposed a $1 billion payment to Service Canada “to expedite the processing of labor insurance and pension claims while reducing the backlog of labor insurance claims.

We’ll have to see if those totals show up in the next budget in the spring.

*Fictional first names

Learn more

  • 38 minutes Average wait time to speak to an EI agent on Monday 16th January.


  • 76.7% Between April 1 and December 31, 2022, Service Canada processed 76.7% of employment insurance claims within 28 days.