I'm speaking on behalf of the IATSE, which is the largest union in the entertainment industry, representing over 150,000 technicians across North America, including 26,000 in Canada. Our members work in both the film and television and live performance sectors. We are the cinematographers, set dressers, scenic artists, carpenters, stagehands, hairstylists, costume designers and just about every other behind-the-scenes position you can name.
As you've heard, our industry was the first to go down, and it will be the last to come back, particularly in the live performance sector. IATSE members in Canada are experiencing wage losses in the range of $120 million every month. Due to the freelance nature of our work, fewer than 2% of our members are receiving support through the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Many are contract workers and are not eligible for employment insurance, so the only support available to a large portion of entertainment workers has been the CERB.
I want to express my sincere thanks to the Government of Canada for the creation of this benefit. It has truly been a lifesaver. I was relieved to hear this week's announcement that the CERB would be extended for eight more weeks, but I need to make clear that the industry is a long way off from being ready to reopen. Most theatres will not be reopening until the spring of 2021. Live performances cannot restart until government okays large crowds.
Workers will need the CERB extended until the industry is allowed to reopen to full audiences. Alternatively, the implementation of a universal basic income would also address support as well as retention, particularly in retraining workers who are just starting out in our industry and whose employment is typically more sporadic.
The majority of IATSE locals belong to CEIRP, the Canadian Entertainment Industry Retirement Plan, which is a group RRSP plan with $700 million in assets. We have requested that the Department of Finance and the Canada Revenue Agency create a limited window of emergency relief by allowing repayable RRSP withdrawals like what presently exists under the home buyers' plan and the lifelong education plan.
This emergency relief mechanism would have the benefit of making cash available to Canadians in need. Like the home buyers' plan and lifelong education plan, this temporary program would take the form of a repayable loan, and the funds would be made available between now and December 31, 2020, or extended due to the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, film and television production levels in Canada were at historic highs, fuelled in large part by the increase of foreign service work and the dramatic increase in industry capacity and infrastructure. The industry has been working collaboratively to ensure that we are ready to return to these levels and even higher when work resumes.
We should not be content with simply returning to those previous levels of production. Now is the time for the federal government to partner with provinces to invest in this industry in order to bolster our capacity. The demand for audiovisual content, particularly on streaming sites, is growing worldwide, and Canada is in a unique position to take advantage of this growth. Our crews and talent are recognized around the globe as being world class. Now is the time to be bold and work with our industry to expand our capacity to create good-paying jobs for the future.
The last point I want to mention is a concern for the industry, particularly the domestic producers. It is the ability to secure insurance in an environment where there's a real risk of a production's being shut down due to COVID. Without adequate insurance, the industry will not be able to reopen. Domestic producers have a proposal before the federal government that, in very broad terms, is asking the federal government to act as an insurance backstop whereby producers could contribute to a pandemic-coverage insurance pool that would total $100 million and be administered by the federal government.
IATSE and other labour groups support this proposal, with two caveats. The first is that workers should be paid out first for any outstanding wages and benefits, and should also receive some form of severance should a production go down. Safety must also be a priority, so the second caveat is that any producer taking advantage of the program must adhere to an industry-negotiated safety protocol that ensures the health and safety of the cast and crew.
Now I'll defer to Arden Ryshpan.