300

Earlier, we reported the number of full-time equivalents in government is forecasted to decrease by 430 or 1.34 percent in fiscal 2009/10. But, in an email sent to civil servants, the premier's deputy minister Jessica McDonald stated "under 300 positions" would be getting pink slips. And, according to Ms. McDonald, those layoffs will occur at the ministries of attorney general, advanced education and labour market development, citizens' services, finance, forests and range, housing and social development, labour, public safety and solicitor general, as well as the premier's office. But, she stressed, "There are also no 'frontline' job losses in ministries providing social services." The following is a complete copy of that email.

From: McDonald, Jessica
Sent: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 2:57 PM
Subject: A Message from Jessica McDonald

Good afternoon.

Last week, I wrote to update you on work that has been underway over the past months to find new solutions to limit job losses across our workforce.

In summary, I laid out a number of proactive steps that have been taken, including:

* Not filling vacancies resulting from retirements and resignations (attrition) wherever possible and instead reassigning staff to fill these positions.

* Creating an internal database of opportunities for job matching.

* Restricting external hiring to create further salary savings and/or provide new placement opportunities for existing staff.

* Introducing the Voluntary Reduced Workweek initiative, with savings retained in the same ministry to reduce job impacts.

* Reducing the senior executive ranks of government, with savings reallocated to other salary needs within ministries.

* Funding four new transformation projects that provide additional job opportunities to assist with streamlining work processes in areas across government for the future.

Throughout this process, a large number of employees have accepted new work assignments. I know that change can be unsettling and I want to express my appreciation for the openness and willingness that so many have brought to this effort, ultimately assisting to reduce the incidence of overall job loss.

With the introduction of today's updated provincial Budget, more specific information is now available regarding ministry budgets. As I committed to you earlier, I am writing to you today to explain how this will affect jobs in our organization. Since the spring, I have shared with you our initial projections that job loss in the BC Public Service is likely to occur, but could be managed to 5% or less of our workforce over the three-year plan. With approximately 30,000 FTEs, a 5% reduction would equate to about 1,500 positions over that time frame. As work progressed over the past six months to refine the Budget due to the continuing economic downturn, our revised projections showed that approximately 800 positions would likely be affected this year.

However, I am now able to say that due to the measures we have introduced we have been successful in reducing those numbers to less than 1% of the organization this year, or under 300 positions. This includes both regular as well as auxiliary positions where terms are being ended early. It also includes the impacts of restructuring already completed in the Public Service Agency and the Public Affairs Bureau.

All ministries have been affected by measures such as the closing of vacant positions and placement of individuals into new assignments. In fact, in combination with the high levels of attrition our organization is facing, we project that the public service will be 5% smaller in size over the next three years.

However, actual job loss (employee layoffs) is dispersed across just 9 ministries. The ministries affected are Attorney General, Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, Citizens' Services, Finance, Forests and Range, Housing and Social Development, Labour, Public Safety and Solicitor General, and the Office of the Premier. The majority of these positions are located in Victoria as opposed to regional offices. There are also no "frontline" job losses in ministries providing social services, these being Attorney General, Housing and Social Development, and Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Now that every effort has been made to reduce impacts and attempt to match every individual against vacancies, we will today be initiating a formal workforce adjustment process. This will involve direct discussions with the BC Government and Service Employees' Union, the Professional Employees' Association and the BC Excluded Employees' Association. All affected employees will receive personal counselling support throughout the process.

For bargaining unit employees, the process will follow the layoff and recall provisions of the collective agreement and will involve ministry joint (Article 29) committees. For regular employees, the collective agreement process takes place in two phases, with the first phase consisting of a period of up to 90 days in which attempts are made to place affected employees into vacancies of the same or comparable positions to their own. In the second phase, affected employees not yet placed receive layoff notices and attempts to find placements continue over a four-to-six-week period. At this stage, employees with three or more years of seniority can also displace employees with less than three years seniority. Employees who are laid off at the end of the process are entitled to severance if eligible and will also have ongoing personal counselling support made available.

For excluded employees, every effort has also been made over the past few months to find job matches. If further options are possible, employees will be given 30 days working notice during which time efforts will be made to conclude a placement. If no placement has been concluded by the end of this 30-day period, employees will be informed and receive severance if eligible as well as personal support to transition to other career opportunities outside of the public service.

While job losses this year will not exceed 1%, the exact number will not be certain until these processes are complete. I am hopeful that continuing restrictions on external hires along with ongoing retirements and voluntary resignations will present new opportunities for placement over the coming months to assist in further reducing these numbers.

There are a few additional points to note:

* There continue to be no plans to introduce early retirement incentives. Considering the longer-term demographic challenge we face, our goal is to minimize the loss of skilled employees as much as possible while we also strive to meet the immediate fiscal challenge.

* Given the success of the Voluntary Reduced Workweek pilot, we will be initiating discussion on the @Work website regarding the possibility of offering this program a second time over the Christmas period. If this proceeds, it will operate on the same terms as our current pilot and will be entirely voluntary.

* While job loss this year has been kept within 1% of our workforce, we have further work ahead of us to address the budget challenges of the following years. We will undertake the same level of effort to find solutions to keep numbers of affected employees minimized.

* It has been reconfirmed in both the Speech from the Throne last week and in today's updated provincial Budget that there is no funding available for public service wage increases. Our focus is instead on using all available salary dollars to protect jobs within our workforce.

While I am heartened by the success of our intensive efforts to dramatically reduce what would have been a much larger number of job losses, I recognize that this is still a very difficult and emotional time for those directly affected and for many of you as their colleagues. You can expect to hear more from your executive today about how this affects your ministry. Employees directly affected will be receiving information and full support from their ministry executive and the Public Service Agency over the next couple of days. If you have questions or concerns about how this could affect you, you can speak confidentially to your ministry's HR consultant at the Public Service Agency.

I believe the most important measures we can take to manage through these difficult times are those that ensure fairness, certainty and clarity. I will continue to communicate with you regularly to share as much information as possible as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Jessica McDonald

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

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