|Canada Revenue, Social Development to bear brunt of latest public service job cuts|
OTTAWA — Federal public servants head into summer vacation with about 23,400 of them having been given notice that they could lose their jobs and Canadians still in the dark about what the Conservative government is cutting to reach its $5.2-billion reduction target.
About 5,150 public servants were sent notices in a dozen departments Wednesday, warning them their jobs are affected by the spending cuts and could disappear. This was the fourth round of notices to be issued since Jim Flaherty unveiled his budget three months ago.
“I can imagine how morale is sinking after these,” said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
Employees in large departments such as Canada Revenue Agency and Human Resources and Social Development Canada were hit hard with about 1,300 and 2,075 notices issued respectively, but other departments such as Fisheries and Oceans got hit for the third time with another 430 people told their jobs are on the line.
Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said the time has come for the government to cut the “spin,” be more transparent and tell Canadians what they are cutting. She said the government is misleading Canadians with assurances that they won’t feel the impact of the $5.2 billion in spending cuts on programs or front-line services.
Benson said the union doesn’t have the information to “delve deeper” into the impact of the cuts but she doesn’t buy the government’s argument that most of the savings will come from operations and revamping “back office” work, leaving front-line programs and services unscathed.
“We are worried that Canadians won’t be getting the services they need and we don’t know what services are being eliminated,” said Benson. “Frankly, the end result is we will lose services and programs and the average Canadian won’t know until that program is gone or they go to get help (at a government office) and the program is gone.”
The union strongly backs Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s fight to get details on the nature of the cuts from departments. Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, the country’s top bureaucrat and the deputy minister to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is refusing to turn over the information because of the government’s contractual obligation with unions to keep such information private.
Unions have told Treasury Board that they support all information being released except the names of people who could lose their jobs. Treasury Board President Tony Clement has repeatedly said details about the cuts will come out through normal reporting channels to Parliament.
Andrea Mandel-Campbell, a spokesperson for Clement, said the reductions to cut the deficit are “fair, balanced and moderate savings measures” that will reduce the size of the public service by four per cent over three years, and 70 per cent of the savings will come from making operations more efficient.
“We feel strongly that leaner and more affordable government is good for all taxpayers,” she said.
Other departments issuing notices include Transport Canada, Infrastructure Canada, National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans, Justice Canada, Environment Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Industry Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Correctional Services of Canada and Canada School of the Public Service.
Benson said the cuts that give her the “most angst” are the 1,450 employees at Service Canada who received notices, which she argues is a sign that front-line services will be cut. Service Canada is the government’s service arm that delivers programs such as employment insurance, passports, and Old Age Security.
“It is impossible that front-line services won’t be affected,” she said.
The government’s omnibus budget bill consolidated the separate appeals process for those using Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Employment Insurance and the union expects that’s where most of its members are being affected.
The government has insisted that service should improve with technology to handle routine processing and payment transactions. It is consolidating smaller and costlier EI processing sites into larger regional hubs and other back-office administrative functions across the country. Service Canada’s grants and contributions programs will be administered in 30 communities rather than 97, and integrity services reduced to 65 communities rather than 122.
This is the first time the Canada Revenue Agency, the largest department with 45,000 employees, has issued notices since the March budget. Notices will be going to 400 auditors in the areas of criminal investigations, special enforcement and voluntary disclosure programs.
PSAC said all the tax agency’s cash and enquiry counters that offer in-person service are being closed and clients will have to use the website and call centres. At the same time, about 20 jobs are being eliminated at a call centre in Winnipeg.
Corbett said Fisheries and Oceans has been hit with three rounds of cuts since December 2011, taking its toll of the biologists, physical scientists and engineers his union represents. Nearly 280 employees will be getting notices in this round. These cuts continue the government’s withdrawal from environmental protection, particularly since the explicit protection of fish habitat was removed from the Fisheries Act as part of the Conservatives’ sweeping changes in the omnibus budget bill.
DFO offices with habitat management staff be will be reduced from 63 to 14 positions across Canada. Small local offices will closed.
Until Wednesday, federal departments had already sent out affected notices to more than 18,200 employees in three previous rounds. Those receiving affected notices may not lose their jobs, but are put on notice that the work they do will be affected by cuts and they could lose their job.
So far, about 2,200 people are facing layoff and another 915 are in jobs that have been declared surplus but have been promised a “reasonable job offer’ by their senior bosses.
Departments are under pressure to sort out who’s going and who’s staying as quickly as possible. Their budgets have all been cut for the fiscal year and they have to get employees off the payroll to meet their savings targets. They have to manage around the 120 days all surplus employees are guaranteed to decide whether they want to leave with one of the packages offered or go on the priority list in hopes of landing another job.
Here are the number of notices issued to employees in other departments represented by the three largest unions — PSAC. PIPSC and Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE).
• Justice: 674
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