DIANA WHALEN “Our most strategic investment is people,” Minister of Finance, Diana Whalen, Budget Address, April 9, 2015. Ms Whalen said this as she announced the cuts to 320 full-time positions in the Civil Service and the elimination of the entire Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.
NSGEU’s press release on April 9 reads: “Cuts to public sector jobs released in today’s budget are a shameful attack on our valuable services and the frontline staff who deliver them,” says Joan Jessome, President of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union (NSGEU). “It is also the beginning of the sell-off of public assets into private hands.”
The Liberal government has completely eliminated the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism (ERDT), replacing it with a new Department of Business.
“Eliminating the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism is certainly an ironic move,” says Jessome, “when we have heard so much from reports like “One Nova Scotia” about the need to strengthen our rural economic development and tourism.”
Approximately 78 employees and members of the NSGEU, the majority who work in ERDT have been issued layoff notices. This includes 20 Service Nova Scotia employees who have the option of relocating with their jobs. These layoffs follow cuts to 58 much needed seasonal jobs in seven parks across the province and Visitor Information Centres in Pictou and Digby, and another 11 positions in child welfare services in the communities of Guysborough and Barrington.
“This budget is brutal,” says Jessome. “They are trying to balance their books on the backs of the public service and are decimating our communities across the province.”
Many communities will lose their frontline land registration services as the budget includes the consolidation of existing land registration offices into just five for the whole province. This is believed to be the first step in the government’s planned privatization of this registry.
In mid-March the government announced plans to pursue the privatization of three registries within Service Nova Scotia: the Registry of Joint Stocks; Registry of Motor Vehicles; and the NS Land Registry.
Cuts to services include closing seven remote rural courthouses including Port Hood, Guysborough, Baddeck, Lunenburg, Liverpool, Comeauville, and Barrington.
The NSGEU will be working with affected members to ensure their workplace rights are protected.
With the creation of a new Department of Business, the government is also realigning and restructuring government to facilitate the privatization of our public services. Currently, the Civil Service has only been filling half the vacancies, leaving fewer workers to do more work and the cuts have already begun.
- January – government cut child welfare services in Guysborough and Barrington. They laid off five members working in child welfare services in Barrington and six in Guysborough (one of the workers in Guysborough is an Income Assistance Caseworker). This followed on the heels of the closure of the Sheet Harbour Community Services Office.
- February – government announced it was cutting 58 front line positions in parks and in Visitor Information Centres (VICs) and closing two VICs in Digby and Pictou devastating many rural communities. Their plans are to replace people with machines.
- March – government announces the privatization of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency. They also announced their intention to privatize three registries in Service Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotians want programs to be there when they need them and they need them more now than ever. Unemployment is high and families are struggling. Now is not the time to cut programs and jobs.
McNeil and his government are claiming that reducing the size of the Civil Service will help them decrease the deficit. This will not work. Cuts to programs and services will hurt Nova Scotians and will only make the deficit worse.
We have a twin-engine economy. A private sector engine and a public sector engine. the private sector engine is at half-throttle right now. Cutting back the public sector engine at the same time will slow the economy down even more. The public sector plays an important stabilizing role in the economy.
There are a few specific steps the government must take to stimulate the economy: be an employer of good-paying jobs; invest in high quality public services that protect and empower families; and invest in new infrastructure projects that will create jobs, repair our crumbling infrastructure and modernize our economy.
We anticipate the government has more public service cuts and privatization plans ahead. We will share any information we have with you as soon as we know. We usually find out about their plans through what we call the “technical change process”. This process was negotiated and included in the Civil Service Collective agreement years ago and ideally means that there will be some consultation when government makes changes to the way they deliver services and when these changes have an impact on the membership. In reality it is often where we get sometimes very short notice of government’s plans with no consultation.
Please do as many or all of the things in the “Toolkit” to raise your voice to protect and defend public services and the benefits we have negotiated over the years.
Our twitter handle is #actnow. Some suggestions for tweets could be:
Ivany report recommends innovation, not cuts to public services @nsgeu #actnow
McNeil:don’t cut jobs & programs in spring budget. It will make NS worse@nsgeu#actnow