Meanwhile, at the last resort

Provincial government layoffs, if they do occur, will be under five percent of the workforce. This, according to the premier's deputy minister Jessica McDonald. In an email to bureaucrats, Ms. McDonald stated "we believe the number could ultimately be much lower than that." But "every effort is being made to consider direct staff impacts only as a last resort." The following is a complete copy of that email.

From: McDonald, Jessica
Sent: Tue Feb 17 16:13:54 2009
Subject: Message from Jessica McDonald

Good afternoon.

On February 5th, I wrote to you to clarify information about the current economic downturn and what it means for us in the public service. I indicated in my message that more details would be available on Budget Day, February 17th, and that I would continue to connect with you directly to share new information.

Today the Minister of Finance tabled the new provincial budget (called "Budget 2009", full documentation can be found at www.gov.bc.ca). In it, he has confirmed that the province will run a temporary deficit over the next two years, resulting from substantially lower projected revenues available to fund government operations. Funding for health care, education and training will increase along with other targeted investments, and this will be accommodated by spending reductions in other areas.

Significant savings have been found through reductions in areas of discretionary spending in ministries - for example, advertising and publications, travel, office expenses, and contracted professional services. Such efficiencies account for $1.9 billion in savings over three years. Other savings have been found through reduced staffing costs.

As you are all aware, we have known for some time that the BC Public Service is facing significant demographic challenges and is anticipated to be substantially smaller over the course of the coming decade. This is a reality we have focused on in the Corporate HR Plan "Being the Best" over the past three years, and has been the subject of many discussions as I have travelled around the province to meet with you. We have known that, despite our best efforts to improve our recruitment and retention outcomes, our overall staffing costs will go down substantially in the next few years due to increasing attrition and recruitment lag.

While this reduction in size presents challenges for us as we deliver important public services into the future, it now provides us with an opportunity to capture these savings to contribute to budget reductions, avoiding direct staff impacts.

More work will be required over the next few months to ensure we have designed thoughtful plans for managing through the upcoming years with a strong public service that is positioned effectively to do our work. To assist with this, a fund has been included in the budget to support a new Public Service Transformation Strategy. It will involve strategic investments in key job opportunities and redesigning processes that help us to deliver services with fewer staff. It will also include the introduction of new programs to help work units across government clarify priorities and ensure even and manageable workloads exist for all staff.

You can expect to be involved in this planning, and to have input into the ideas and approaches that are being considered. Already, over the past few weeks, individuals from across the public service have put ideas forward through the @Work website, through Spark, through internal discussions in your ministries, and through direct notes to me. I want you to know that these ideas are important, and we will soon be sending some of the best ones back to you for further comment and input.

More facts will be available as we move forward, and I will continue to correspond with you directly to ensure you have consistent, reliable and direct information, as will your ministry executives. In this regard, I want to reiterate and expand on some of the messages I laid out in my last broadcast email to you:

· As the budget implementation planning proceeds in each ministry, every effort is being made to consider direct staff impacts only as a last resort. Some seasonal or on-call auxiliary terms will naturally come to an end in different ministries over the next while. Other than these positions, and the senior executive reductions recently implemented, we do not expect any staff layoffs or terminations to occur in the next few months as a result of budget reductions. Instead, as referenced above, we will be working to find opportunities for staff to keep working and for the organization to adjust to delivering services as a smaller organization. I want to be clear that these plans will contemplate opportunities for both regular employees and auxiliaries.

· If, at the end of this planning process, staff layoffs do occur, you can be assured that it will be the smallest number of individuals impacted possible. Speculation has occurred over the past couple of weeks that these numbers could reach as high as 20% of the workforce. As I have stated before, these reports are inaccurate. What we know at this stage is that direct impacts will definitely be under 5%, including both regular and auxiliary employees. However, we believe the number could ultimately be much lower than that. We will be able to more accurately gauge the number of potential impacts over the next few months, and we will share this information with you to keep you apprised.

· The collective agreement currently in place has not been, and will not be, impacted. Therefore, the upcoming general wage increase will occur as planned, as well as previously approved labour market adjustment such as those for sheriffs and corrections officers. However, it has also been announced that there is no funding included in the budget for additional wage increases for the next round of bargaining. The focus is instead on protecting jobs in our organization.

· There is no hiring freeze in effect, although you will naturally see fewer vacancies being posted as we use our natural attrition as savings to avoid direct staff impacts.

· In recognition of the fact that our plan is based on managing existing attrition rates, there are no plans to offer voluntary departure or early retirement programs to accelerate staff losses.

You can expect to be informed, involved, and to feel that your ideas will be considered. As always, I encourage you to monitor our employee website @Work at https://gww.gov.bc.ca/ where I am personally reading the comments posted each day. You can expect to see regular updates responding to key themes and questions, and reporting on our progress.

We have a lot to be proud of in the BC Public Service. We have achieved extraordinary breakthroughs in innovative new solutions for serving the public, we have rewarding experiences each day assisting people with their needs, and we help each other to do our very best. We are a community. Together, we will design a path forward that upholds our core values and that allows us to continue to succeed.

Thank you for the important work you do, and for your commitment to the BC Public Service.

Jessica McDonald
Deputy Minister to the Premier and
Head of the BC Public Service

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