The provincial government made an early retirement offer to civil servants on Tuesday as part of its goal to cut costs.

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy said there are about 400 employees eligible for early retirement, and the province is offering as much as 12 weeks' salary on top of severance packages.

He said the goal is to avoid layoffs where possible.

"It's another way to try to reduce the number of layoffs to achieve the reduction of positions in the core public service, and hopefully reduce layoffs," Kennedy said.

"I have no idea at this point as to how many people will avail of the proposal, but I guess I'm hoping that there will be a good uptake."

Layoffs will continue

Kennedy said eligible workers should seriously consider the offer.

"If I was a member of the public service and I was within my retirement, well, 12 weeks pay is 12 weeks pay, in addition to the other benefits that you get, so it's certainly something that I would take into account."

Kennedy said there will still be other layoffs even if all eligible employees take advantage of the offer.

"We still have targets that we're trying to meet, in terms of developing our plan to return to a balanced budget — I can't even tell you when, at this stage, what that will be," he said.

"But it's a fairly aggressive plan, and to meet those figures we have to ensure that there's a significant reduction this year."

A number of civil service workers have already been laid off, or have been told their contracts will not be renewed.