Parental benefits for workers are possible

By Leslie Dyson

Teamster member Ryan Verigan and his wife had their first child in February and he finished his work as a foreman at the John Hart Dam in March. He was happy to get some time off, and said he was looking forward to taking a couple of months off to enjoy his new family. But with a baby comes additional expenses and EI was his only option.

“Childcare, yeah, that’s a big one,” he said in terms of union benefits that he’d like to see. And he thinks employers who require their workers to relocate should help the families that have to move as well. “That would be a big bonus.”

Teamster member Melinda Fabick said, “There doesn’t seem to be any childcare in any industry.” Before moving over to the ready-mix sector as a Teamster driver on Vancouver Island she drove a school bus in the Lower Mainland. “You want your child to be safe (but) they don’t give you accommodations for having a child.”

However, changes are coming.

The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of Canada (UA Canada) launched a National Parental Wellness Program in March, the first of its kind in the construction industry in Canada.

Three forms of financial assistance are being offered. A Parental Wellness Benefit will pay the equivalent of the current EI amount for up to 24 weeks during pregnancy to members who would otherwise need to continue working in the trades in an environment that could pose a risk to them and their unborn children. It will allow members to take paid time off prior to giving birth without having to exhaust their EI maternity/parental benefits.

A Maternity EI Supplementary Benefit will provide qualifying members with a top up for a maximum of 15 weeks while they are receiving EI Maternity Benefits.

The national union has also introduced a Parental EI Supplementary Benefit to help male and female members who want to take time off work to care for their infants. It will provide a top up for a maximum of 35 weeks to members while they are receiving EI Parental Benefits.

“Recruitment and retention are crucial in the construction industry,” said Alanna Marklund, national manager for Youth, Diversity and Indigenous Relations, in a news release.

“With the skills shortage that we are experiencing in Canada, it is imperative that we take care of our membership. We must show that we support our members throughout their entire careers, including their personal lives, or we risk losing the highly skilled and well-trained professionals within our industry.