Morale low as local federal workers await cuts

By Karena Walter, The Standard

Friday, April 6, 2012 7:24:14 EDT PM   http://www.dunnvillechronicle.com

Federal workers in Niagara continue to face unknown futures as the government begins eliminating thousands of public-servant jobs across the country.

“I think the not knowing part of it is the hardest,” said Debbie Willett, Public Service Alliance of Canada’s area council representative for Ontario.

“If you’re told, ‘Yes, it’s you,’ it’s going to be an initial shock, but at least you can start planning to figure out what you’re going to do. Not knowing is the hardest part.”

Last month’s federal budget outlined plans to eliminate 19,200 public servant positions to save $5 billion, resulting in 12,000 people losing their jobs. The other positions will be lost through attrition.

On Wednesday, 1,500 of those jobs were cut at the Defence Ministry, but other federal workers are still waiting for word on how the cuts will impact their departments.

Willett, who lives in Niagara Falls and works in St. Catharines, said the union represents between 1,000 to 1,200 federal workers from Grimsby to Fort Erie.

They include immigration, passport, agriculture, parole, parks, Canada border services and revenue employees.

“We’re not hearing anything yet in the way of numbers or who, we’re just hearing it has to come out of the budget somehow, somewhere,” she said.

Willett said the hope is that the cuts will come from retirements or people choosing to leave on their own accord, but workers are still in the dark.

“We know cuts are coming, but each department hasn’t told the members or employees where the cuts are going to be,” Willett said.

“It’s gloomy. The morale is definitely down. It’s not necessarily the person that’ll go, it could be the position.

“You could be the best worker ever, but if it’s your job they’re eliminating, it would be you.”

When the announcements will be made is unknown and Willett said she’s heard word it could come down any time from mid-April to June.

Willett said the job cuts will impact the public at large.

“If we’re gone, it’s the services they’re going to lose. It does affect you because it’s the services we provide you’re no longer going to see or you may have to travel distances to get the services.”

On March 1, 160 Niagara members of PSAC and the Professional Institute of the Public Services of Canada protested in St. Catharines outside the tax services office the cuts the federal government was expected to announce in the March 29 budget.

The National office of the Public Service Alliance of Canada called on the government this week to detail a department by department accounting of what services are going to be cut, where, when and how.

kwalter@stcatharinesstandard.ca

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