May 11th, 2020
Letter to Ministers Freeland and Qualtrough
Regarding Workers Refusing Unsafe Work and Eligibility for CERB
I am reaching out to you to obtain written clarification regarding eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB application website (https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html) states that workers are only eligible for CERB benefits if they “have not quit their job voluntarily”. This does not provide the clarity necessary for workers to feel comfortable refusing work that they deem unsafe or dangerous to themselves or their family.
The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed verbally that no one will be compelled to work in an environment that is unsafe and therefore it should follow that benefits like the CERB will be available to all workers who choose to not go to work because they believe their workplace is either unsafe or that going to work would endanger themselves or their families.
It appears that there is some confusion between what the Deputy Prime Minister has assured Canadians and what is being shared on the Government of Canada website. I would urge the government to update the website at the earliest convenience to remove ambiguous language that may be misleading Canadians and I would like to receive written confirmation of the eligibility of CERB for workers who will not endanger themselves by working in perilous conditions.
I look forward to both your written response and to see the Government of Canada website be updated to better reflect a commitment to worker safety. Thank you for your consideration and your efforts to help all Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.