I spoke with a couple of sources within Service Canada Thursday regarding Conservative cuts to the Employment Insurance system. They asked me to relate the following inside story.
Sources within Service Canada say there were two cases across Canada this week in which police had to be called in because Employment Insurance claimants had threatened to kill themselves.
The sources said the claimants were distressed because of the particular decision on their EI claims, and the length of time it took for the decisions to be handed down.
The same source also revealed Canada-wide statistics on the speed of decisions for EI claims.
Service Canada has set a goal whereby 85 per cent of EI claims are to be seen by a Service Canada agent within 21 days of being filed, so that a payment can be made within 28 days.
But that goal is nowhere near being reached.
In fact, for the week ending Jan. 21st, only 33.7 per cent of EI claims had been seen by an agent within 21 days — the "worst" the source had ever seen.
For Newfoundland and Labrador, only 40 per cent of EI claims had been seen by an agent within 21 days.
As of the week ending Jan. 21st, 62,034 claims across Canada were 29-plus days old — representing 27.1 per cent of all claims.
The goal is 3 per cent.
But there are still more shocking statistics involving so-called revised claims — claims that require the claimant to submit additional information for a decision to be rendered.
As of the week ending Jan. 21st, 197,463 claims across Canada were outstanding beyond 29 days, representing 79 per cent of claims.
The goal, again, is 3 per cent.
In previous years, Service Canada hired extra employees in September through to February to deal within increased claims.
This year, the department only hired a minimal staff as of Nov. 18, and no overtime was approved during December to get Canadians paid before Christmas.
The source said Service Canada has hired extra security at the front desk of all Service Canada outlets across Canada.
The stress load amongst employees and claimants is through the roof.
Come March 12th, federal budget day, Service Canada employees expect to cut between 10 and 15 per cent of full-time staff across Canada.
The source said cuts are expected to be biggest in Ottawa and Atlantic Canada.