Canada budget cuts hit thousands of civil servants

Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:52pm EDT

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* More than 8,000 public servants put on notice

* 2,300 Statscan employees affected by budget cuts

* Not all notified workers will lose jobs

* Unions say layoffs, uncertainty will hurt economy

By Louise Egan

OTTAWA, April 30 (Reuters) - More than 8,000 Canadian federal government workers will receive notice this week that they may lose their jobs due to budget cuts, including about 2,300 employees at Statistics Canada, unions said on Monday.

The Conservative government announced in its March 29 budget that it would cut operational spending across all government departments and agencies by 6.9 percent, eliminating 19,200 public service jobs, or about 5 percent of total federal employment, as it seeks to balance its budget by 2015-16.

"We're astounded by how quickly and mercilessly this government is moving to put people out of work and cut the services Canadians across the country rely on," said John Gordon, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

Since the budget, more than 18,000 letters have been sent to employees in dozens of departments.

The notices do not necessarily mean each employee will be laid off but that their position is "affected". The notices trigger a complex process outlined in the collective agreements whereby management must try to shuffle some workers to new positions, or offer retraining or early retirement.

Nobody knows exactly how many of those affected will end up out of work. The process could take several weeks or even months.

Union leaders say the secrecy surrounding the cuts and the difficulty obtaining details from the government is damaging on its own.

"Make no mistake about it, this will hurt the economy," Gordon said.

PSAC reported 3,872 of its members were notified on Monday that their jobs are on the line, for a total of 11,957 such notices since the budget.

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) has received a total of 3,229 letters to date and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said 3,000 of its members have been affected.

At Statistics Canada, the federal agency responsible for economic indicators as well as social data, analysis and the census, the cuts could lead to less data available for financial market players, researchers and business.

The agency was already under pressure from a previous budget freeze and from controversy over the government's decision to eliminate the long-form census questionnaire, which led the agency's chief statistician to resign in 2010.

"This is a hard-hit organization. It's been targeted for a while," said Claude Poirier, president of CAPE.

"It's like announcing to a small town that there's a bomb that's going to explode and there's no time to evacuate. They're just going to disappear."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says his government has taken a balanced approach to tackling the deficit and that many of the job losses will occur through attrition or by eliminating wasteful back-office activities.

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Comments (3)
GaryMN wrote:
Canada is on the right track, they are moving away from Socialism. There is real hope north of the border. Canadians are going to need to build a border fence soon, to keep citizens of the USA from illegally immigrating.

Apr 30, 2012 7:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RonCan wrote:
America take a look at how a Government is supposed to be fiscally respndsible. We could take a lesson from Canada!!!!

May 01, 2012 4:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AliceNakamura wrote:
It is spectacular that more than a fourth of the federal employees who given notice they may lose their jobs are at Statistics Canada.
In the last federal election, candidates argued for the positions of their parties using Statistics Canada numbers we mostly have trusted, for the best of reasons.
Businesses and the consultants advising them about investing in Canada have mostly trusted Statistics Canada numbers, for the best of reasons.
I have watched how Statistics Canada conducts its business since the early 1980s. The agency has been under steady pressure to do more with less.
All of Canada’s private businesses and government departments are now far more dependent on good quality official statistics than they were in previous decades, as is true in nations around the world. Canadians will win — or begin to lose out — in a globalizing economy in large measure because our decision makers, do — or do not — have good statistics which are a necessary input for good choices. The high quality of Canada’s official statistics are an advantage that Canadians have always had, and hence have no experience with doing without. The expertise it takes to produce high quality statistics is built up over decades, but can be lost quickly.
It is no accident, in my view, that the world’s largest business — Walmart — also has the private sector’s biggest data warehouse. It is no accident, in my view, that a company like Walmart has continued investing in its information infrastructure year after year, in a steady fashion. Modern companies, like modern nations, that want to compete with the best need the best possible information to guide their choices.

May 02, 2012 3:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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