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EI changes would impact many seasonal workers on P.E.I.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees on P.E.I. says there is mass confusion surrounding changes to the employment insurance system.

The union says the federal government should just forget implementing the changes altogether.

Lori MacKay, the president of CUPE PEI, says the original changes to the EI system were confusing enough. She says the recent announcement to fix a problem surrounding how much a worker can earn before affecting benefits has made things even muddier.

"There is a lot of changes happening and really nobody has the true information to be quite honest," said MacKay. "The regulations around EI haven't really come down from Ottawa yet, so folks are confused and things are changing fairly rapidly."

Mackay said the reforms are flawed and CUPE, along with other unions and community groups on P.E.I., is organizing a rally next weekend outside national revenue minister Gail Shea's constituency office in Summerside.

In early August, Human Resources minister Diane Finley announced changes to the "working while on claim pilot program" for EI recipients who find part-time work while still collecting benefits.

It replaced the previous system that clawed back claims once the part-time wages exceeded 40 per cent of benefits, or $75 a week, whichever was greater.

The government felt the old system discouraged Canadians from accepting more available work to earn wages beyond that threshold.

The new pilot program reduced the clawback on new earnings to 50 per cent, but kicked in with the first dollar earned, not at 40 per cent.

The effect was that claimants who found only a little part-time work wound up penalized by the new system, while those who worked longer hours and at higher pay could keep more of their earnings.

"We need to scrap their reform as far as I'm concerned," said MacKay. "There is lots that needs to be done possibly on EI, but it would be on the reverse. We would be calling for an improvement of benefits and more accessibility for Canadians, not less."