Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees president Carol Furlong finds the bumping process “horrifying for many of our members.” — Telegram File photo
Depending on who you asked following the release of the 2013 provincial budget, you would get a different total on the number of people affected by government job cuts and layoffs.
Provincial union leaders insist none of the official numbers are acceptable.
As part of the budget, the government announced 1,181 jobs will be eliminated, including layoffs for 485 employees in the core public service, 246 vacant positions that will not be filled, and 450 positions being cut outside of core government departments.
A hiring freeze remains in effect.
In addition, 190 workers have been approved for early retirement packages. Some of their positions will ultimately be filled, and some will not.
The job cuts and layoffs reflect the result of a top-to-bottom review of the core public sector, said Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy.
“It’s a tough situation. It’s not one that I particularly like. It’s not one that any of us likes. But it’s something that we have to do in order to ensure that we can reduce the deficits and return to a surplus in three years,” he told reporters, before delivering his budget speech.
He said he does not expect everyone losing their government jobs will be able to simply side-step into a position in the private sector.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as that for everyone,” he said.
On the heels of the announced cuts, the bumping process within departments will kick in, with senior workers considering the option of taking positions held by their less experienced peers.
“This is horrifying for many of our members,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Carol Furlong.
“We’re talking about over 2,000 job vacancies, jobs eliminated in this system. That means that public services have to be impacted. You can’t tell me, no one’s going to convince me, that 2,000 jobs are gone and the people of the province won’t notice it. It’s crazy,” she said.
“It’s not just about the people who are actually getting layoff notices. It’s also about the people who are staying in the system and have to pick up all of the slack from those 2,000 jobs that are gone.”
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Her total, higher than Kennedy’s, includes changes made earlier in the year within heath care and 226 job losses attributed to changes in employment assistance services, as a result of cuts in funding to third-party service providers.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) leader Wayne Lucas questioned whether any of the job cuts were really necessary, considering the province’s actual deficit of $563.8 million, lower than the $1.6 billion being forecast prior to the budget announcement.
“Now if they found a billion dollars in six weeks, is there really a need to have these job losses? It was this government that hired these individuals on and if the public sector exploded — this government hired them on. I didn’t hire them on. No union leader here in this hall hired these employees on.”
Not all departments are seeing the same pains.
The largest number of layoffs in the core public service will come in Justice, where 147 layoffs are expected and 52 vacant positions will be cut. That department has 1,648 employees.
Despite the news of government cuts and layoffs, the province is predicting employment growth in the coming year, paired with a one per cent drop in unemployment.
That is little comfort to Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Lana Payne, who questioned how many of the new jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador are related to construction and short-term industrial projects.
“This is a brutal budget for a lot of people,” she said.
“There’s no doubt there are going to be construction jobs out there … but they’re not going to be there forever and we’re making decisions today, permanent decisions about public services, based on what really is a short-term problem and fictional numbers we were given 60 days ago by the finance minister.”