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Canadian Heritage urged to support entertainment workers impacted by COVID-19

Entertainment unions and guilds CWA Canada, IATSE, ACTRA, CFM, Equity and DGC are calling on the federal government to extend income support for those not eligible for EI sickness benefits, including the many workers in our sector who are not classified as employees. The following letter was just sent to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.

March 13, 2020

The Honourable Steven Guileault
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism

Minister Guilbeault,

RE: COVID-19 Response Package – Call to extend income support for those not eligible for EI sickness benefits

Earlier this week, a coalition of creative industry unions and guilds wrote to your Cabinet colleagues, Ministers Hadju and Qualtrough, on behalf of workers in Canada’s entertainment industry who would be left out of the Employment Insurance (EI) supports announced as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 response package. As the Minister of Heritage, we are asking for your assistance in advocating for our members on this issue.

As you know, many in our industry are not classified as employees, and therefore are not eligible for EI benefits for any loss of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While we are pleased that Government has indicated it is exploring additional measures to support other affected Canadians, we are concerned the Government may forget the importance of our industry and the need to also protect the workers who rely on it for their income.

We are already seeing cancellations of screen-based productions and live performances with more anticipated. Workers who are signed to productions rely on those contracts, which can range from several days to several months. The loss of that expected income will be devastating to these precarious workers. Production insurance is not covering cancellations related to COVID-19.

This industry is just one of many where workers are often not defined as employees under the Canada Labour Code. Your Government has often stated it intends to find ways to improve conditions for people who work in the ‘gig economy.’ Extending the $1 billion package for COVID-19 to cover all workers would be a tangible demonstration of that commitment.


David Sparrow
ACTRA National

Arden R. Ryshpan
Executive Director
Canadian Actors’ Equity Association

Alan Willaert
Canadian Federation of Musicians

Martin O’Hanlon
CWA Canada

David Forget
National Executive Director

John Lewis
Vice President, Canadian Region

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