A call for federal support for writers’ and arts workers’ benefits plans

In the video above, Susan Swan, novelist, journalist, and former chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada, discusses the Writers’ Coalition Benefits Program, which offers affordable drug, health, and dental care insurance to writers.

The Writers’ Coalition’s latest initiative, coinciding with the federal election, is a campaign to get Ottawa to commit to provide $1 million over the span of five years to facilitate a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in premiums for its new benefit plan.

In addition to covering those in the writing and publishing sector, the coalition is now reaching out to visual artists, musicians, recording artists and backstage performers with its Arts & Entertainment plan. According to a 2010 study by the Cultural Human Resources Council, of those working in the writing and publishing sector, only 12 per cent have access to dental benefits, 13 per cent have a drug plan, and just seven per cent have a retirement plan. For arts freelancers in Canada, for whom the Arts & Entertainment plan was created, the numbers are similar.

Here is Swan’s letter, which was sent to the leaders of the Bloc, NDP, Liberal, and the Conservative parties and the finance, health, seniors, and heritage ministers:

We are writing to request your party’s support for a significant initiative of the
cultural community to make health care more affordable for Canada’s artistic

Most self-employed Canadians who work in the cultural industries do not have
access to employee sponsored supplemental health programs. A 2010 study
by the Cultural Human Resources Council notes that only 12 per cent of those
working in the writing and publishing sector have access to dental benefits. Only
13 per cent of these workers have a drug plan and just seven percent have a
retirement plan. The study shows the same low percentages of health coverage
for other self-employed workers in the arts because no Canadian insurance
program addresses the needs of freelance creators. In order to fill this gap, the
Writers’ Coalition Benefits Program (WCBP) was launched in 2009 to give these
workers access to services not covered by public health insurance.

To date twenty-eight cultural organizations have endorsed the WCBP on behalf
of over 28,000 members, and more cultural organizations are joining us every

While our premiums reflect our non-profit basis, they are still unaffordable for
thousands of cultural workers whose incomes fluctuate unpredictably, often
below the poverty line. For this reason, we are requesting your commitment to
providing a subsidy of $1 million over a five-year period that will allow a 10% to
15% reduction to our premium structure.

Your investment will represent a meaningful contribution to our public-private
partnership, at minimal cost, and deliver critically improved health care to a
significant number of Canadians. Helping ensure good care now for our cultural
workers will save the health care system much greater costs in the future.

Please consider this request as an urgent matter.

We invite you to respond before Election Day, May 2, in order that we may
advise our partner organizations of your position.

We have attached a list of participating organizations who support the Writers’
Coalition Benefit Program and descriptive material for this program Additionally,
complete details for the program are published on the Writers Coalition Benefits
Program website which can be accessed through the following links.

Writers Coalition Benefits Program
Actra Fraternal Benefit Society

Susan Swan
On behalf of the Writers Coalition Benefits Program


Participating Organizations:
Access Copyright
Calgary Spoken Word Festival
Canadian Authors Association
Canadian Media Guild
Canadian Science Writers’ Association
Canadian Writers Group
IOFA and Harbourfront Reading Series
Kingston WritersFest
Ottawa International Writers’ Festival
PEN Canada
Playwrights Guild of Canada
Professional Writers Association of Canada
Quebec Writers’ Federation
Speculative Fiction Canada
Storytellers of Canada
The Association of Canadian Publishers
The League of Canadian Poets
The Literary Press Group of Canada
The Outdoor Writers’ of Canada
The Word Guild/Christian Info Group
The Writers’ Union of Canada
Thin Air- Winnipeg International Writers Festival
Toronto Writers’ Centre
Vancouver International Writers Festival
WordFest: Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival
Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia
Writers’ Guild of Alberta

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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