Getting it right this time?

Earlier, we reported 52 percent of provincial civil servant responding to an internal online poll voted against the idea of voluntarily reducing their work hours to prevent public service layoffs. So it seems somewhat passingly odd the government is conducting a second poll on the voluntary reduced work week proposal to "provide further insight before we make a final decision on whether or not to proceeding." This, according to an email authored by the premier's deputy minister Jessica McDonald. The following is a complete copy of that email.

From: McDonald, Jessica
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 12:55 PM
Subject: The BC Public Service and the 2009 General Election

As we approach the beginning of the provincial election campaign on April 14, 2009, I want to share information about how elections are a part of life in the public service. I recognize that for many employees this may be for your first time working through this experience, and so I think it is important to ensure all BC Public Service employees understand how an election impacts the operations of the public service.

For almost all employees, particularly those involved in frontline service delivery, your work will continue pretty much as usual. The most notable impact on day-to-day work will be felt by executives and those involved directly in decision-making because there are a number of legal requirements and conventions that come into play. From a policy perspective, the public service will move into what can be described as a "caretaker" mode during the interregnum, the period from when the writs of election are issued on April 14, 2009 to the election on May 12, 2009. This means that the public service is to avoid implementing major new policy initiatives or entering into new commitments that might bind an incoming administration. Ministry executives will be sharing information about what that means with you in the context of your ministry in the weeks ahead. But overall it is the role of the professional public servant to provide the stability and continuity of government services during this interregnum period, and serving the public to the best of our ability remains our first priority.

As individual citizens, we all are entitled to our own personal political views and opinions. But as public service employees, it is more important than ever that at work we operate in the non-partisan and highly professional manner that I know you bring to your jobs every day. The Standards of Conduct contain clear specific provisions related to participation in political activities and political discussion in the workplace. I encourage all employees to read this information, whether you are new to the organization or have been through several elections in your career. You can find more information about this today in an article and a related audiocast on the @Work employee intranet.

Regardless of the outcome, elections inevitably bring some degree of change and I know this may create uncertainty for some employees. But, as I noted above, this is simply part of the unique experience of working in the public service and I thank you for your continued professionalism and dedication as we continue to serve the people of B.C.

I also want to update you briefly on a couple of other points. First, on the subject of the budget impacts on our workforce, I can tell you that ministries are finalizing their plans to map their current workforce to their salary budgets. Some ministries will find it necessary to reassign some staff to new roles as part of this planning. Where there are more employees than can be accommodated within the expected vacancies in a ministry, those employees will then be referred to a skills and opportunities database with support to help them find a suitable position in another ministry. We continue to believe this process will help us significantly reduce the potential for layoffs. I want to reinforce that we still expect that the number of regular and auxiliary employees ultimately affected will be less than five per cent of the public service.

Second, and on a related point, I want to thank you for your input on the voluntary reduced workweek proposal. We have received significant constructive input, and a second poll continues this week on the @Work site to provide further insight before we make a final decision on whether or not to proceed. If you haven't already, I encourage you to take part in that poll and share any additional feedback you have.

Thank you for your continued commitment to serving the province and its people.

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