The Newfoundland and Labrador Union of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) said Friday it’s hearing of layoffs in several departments.
“We’re not sure what the numbers are,” said president Carol Furlong.
But she said the union has heard of a couple layoffs in each of the departments of Finance, Health, Natural Resources and Environment.
“I sure as heck don’t think it’s going to get any better,” Furlong said.
“There’s considerable anxiety and tension in the public services. … It’s a very difficult time.”
Furlong said the public should be concerned about the services they are going to get as a result of layoffs and hiring freezes.
As well, Furlong said it points to poor succession planning as young people have nowhere to go in government.
Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said cuts are happening, but people shouldn’t panic.
“We’re only partway through the process, and I’m going to say the same thing that I said last year: you’ve got to let us get through the process and see what the end result is going to be,” she said. “It was the speculation last year on what it might be that created all the furor and anxiety.”
The Telegram also reported Friday that there are 21 vacancies among client-services officers in income support across the province.
Furlong said not only will that cause frustration on behalf of income-support recipients, but also burnout on those officers who remain, who will bear the brunt of clients’ frustrations.
Workers could end up off work on stress because of the extra workload, she said.
Also this week, The Telegram reported three layoffs at the College of North Atlantic headquarters.
And according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp, (NLC) nine full-time management positions and three union positions were terminated as a result of a budget process review.
A spokesman said had the corporation maintained the current cost structure, it would not have been able to reach its performance objectives for the next fiscal period starting in April.
The Human Resources Secretariat could not be reached for comment on departmental layoffs.
A hiring freeze had already been announced, affecting departments — including frontline workers such as sheriff’s officers, prison guards, wildlife officers and inspectors — but it did not extend to agencies and boards such as Nalcor, the health boards, school boards and others.
But some have taken their own austerity measures, such as Eastern Health, which announced in May plans to eliminate the equivalent of 550 full-time positions, while avoiding permanent staff layoffs, as it tries to tackle deficts dating back to 2007-08.
Lack of trust
Liberal Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons said the public doesn’t trust the government to tell the truth anymore, because of past predictions that didn’t come to fruition.
And he said the temporary hiring freeze was haphazard.
Hirings must be absolutely necessary and during that time any department that wants to hire somebody will need special permission from the Human Resource Secretariat, whose minister is Jerome Kennedy.
The deficit is projected to total nearly $4 billion over three years.
Parsons said the situation was brought about by poor planning and management on the part of the Tory government.
“This never should have got here,” he said. “They have used up their credibility.”
St. John’s North NDP MHA Dale Kirby said there are vital positions in public security and safety that potentially could be left unfilled as a result of the hiring freeze.
“It’s all very unfortunate because we hear time and again from groups who are in fairly difficult positions when it come to getting levels of government services comparable to other jurisdictions in Canada,” he said.
“This is just a sad state of affairs we have come to after a decade of this government’s stay in power.”