You can't buy experience. It's a cliche we hear repeated everyday from
business leaders to coaches.
But it's a truism that may have been lost on Justice Minister Ross Landry,
or at least it's one he's choosing to ignore.
You have probably heard by now that Justice is moving its maintenance
enforcement department to New Waterford. We've now learned 22 of the 23
unionized workers have told the government they won't move; instead they will
take other jobs in the public service, or opt for a severance package (one
person hasn't made a decision yet).
That's a ton of experience that will be left behind when the office heads
down the road.
Landry doesn't see that as a problem. He calls it an "opportunity" to hire
smart, young Nova Scotians.
"I see nothing negative here," said Landry this week. "Nobody likes to lose
expertise but I learned a long time ago that we need to move forward. There are
people there that we can capture their knowledge and pass it on to younger
people that are motivated to do these jobs in that area."
In other words, those long-term experienced civil servants can easily be
replaced with hardly a bump in the system.
If only it was that easy.
The province's maintenance enforcement department is a lifeline for
thousands of single parents. Their job is to collect court-ordered support
payments from ex-spouses who don't want to pay. Money these single parents need
to provide housing, decent clothing and healthy food for their children.
According to documents obtained by the Progressive Conservatives,
maintenance enforcement workers handle 16,000 files.
It isn't easy to track down so-called dead-beat Dads (the vast majority of
these scofflaws are men). It takes years to learn the tricks of the trade, to
learn how to navigate the tax and banking systems looking for hidden assets, and
then find ways to actually get the money.
You can't replace that kind of experience overnight. Sure, the new whiz
kids Landry wants to hire will eventually get it, but in the meantime their
clients, and their clients' children will suffer.
The same scenario is playing out in the Department of Fisheries, where the
government has ordered jobs moved to Shelburne and Digby, and in the Department
of Agriculture where jobs are being moved to Truro.
The final numbers aren't in yet, but the Nova Scotia Government Employees
Union says it looks like the majority of those workers will also refuse to move.
Some may have little sympathy for these displaced workers. After all, they
have what many Nova Scotians would consider "cushy" high paying jobs. But put
yourselves in their shoes. How would you react if you boss told you your job was
moving? Would your partner be willing to leave his/her job to start all over
again in a region of the province with double-digit unemployment? Would you be
willing to haul your kids out of their schools and sports programs, never mind
away from their friends?
My guess is, if we had the chance, most of us would choose to stay home and
find other jobs inside the public service.
No one is questioning the government's desire to create jobs in
economically depressed regions of our province.
But the question is: is this the best way to do it?