The average disqualifications from employment insurance fell from 86,000 to 44,000 after the federal government implemented improved qualification criteria in September 2020 to address rising unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

In response, Unifor is calling on the renewal of the government’s pandemic EI measures. “The report confirms what workers have been telling the federal government for months: the pandemic EI improvements worked,” said Lana Payne, Unifor’s national president, in a press release. “The federal government should act swiftly to renew EI improvements and make permanent changes that benefit workers. Canadian labour market policy should support labour market power for workers.”

Read: Feds adding $2,000 benefit for Canadians out of work due to coronavirus

The EI enhancement and other temporary EI measures are set to expire on Sept. 25, 2022. According to Unifor, a broad coalition of labour unions are pushing the government to ensure the best features of the enhanced EI programs are renewed so it better assists unemployed workers.

“It has been a difficult period for all workers,” said Payne. “But a return to the status quo is a huge mistake — ‘normal’ was never good enough for workers relying on employment insurance. Like health care, we must strengthen EI to be an equitable and accessible program that works for Canadians when they need it most.”

Unifor participated in the government’s multi-staged consultation process with its recommendations including suggestions for boosting the number of struggling workers who qualify and securing an inclusive, equitable and resilient EI program.

Read: Could the pandemic prompt employment insurance reforms?