Government employees' union calls cuts 'devastating'

The union that represents thousands of federal government employees in Atlantic Canada says these are trying times as word of possible budget cuts spread.

The union that represents thousands of federal government employees in Atlantic Canada says these are trying times as word of possible budget cuts spread.

Union officials told CBC News they are hearing about a possible loss of 400 to 500 jobs by 2014 in departments such as Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as the federal government plans to make five to 10 per cent cuts in all departments in an attempt to balance the budget.

"Everybody feels like they're not going to go unscathed," said Debi Buell, the national vice-president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees.

"Everybody's going to be affected and employees are getting pretty tired of hearing this every day."

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced earlier this week it would cut 42 jobs as part of a plan to slice $15.2 million from the agency’s budget.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is working to reverse the decision on those cuts and bring public attention to their impact on services.

"It has probably been one of the worst couple of weeks in my life, and the reason why I say that is that we're hearing almost every day of federal government workers losing their jobs," said Jeannie Baldwin, regional executive vice-president for the PSAC in the Atlantic region.

"We're not talking about small cuts, we're talking about EI processing, we're talking about the call centres, ACOA, Fisheries and Oceans and then of course the Saint John sub centre. So it has been like every day, we've heard some type of announcement that's devastating to our membership."

Baldwin said the alliance is lobbying politicians at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, and have also been asking local chambers of commerce to join the fight.

There is also a petition circulating, which Baldwin said she hopes all concerned Atlantic Canadians will sign.

Jody LaPierre, the provincial director of PSAC and an employee at Veterans Affairs Canada, said employees are already "cut to the bone."

"We can't take anymore. Management is in denial if they think we can take more cuts and still be able to meet the turnaround times and not affect client services," he told CBC News.

Charlottetown mayor Clifford Lee said with each announced federal cut, he becomes more anxious.

"Quite honestly, this has all come about in the last couple of days in regards to these rumours," he said Friday.

"It gets to a point where when you ask the federal people, 'Is there any truth into this?' It's difficult at times to get a straight answer."

In Halifax, about 100 ACOA employees attended a rally on Friday to protest further cuts.