5 things to know about public service job cuts

The federal public service is looking at losing 19,200 jobs over the next three years as part of the government's plan to balance the budget by 2015-16. Here are five things you should know about the cuts.
Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada demonstrate outside their offices to support all Canadians who depend on public service in Ottawa on March 1, 2012. The union says there could be more cuts than just the 19,200 projected in the budget. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

In a company town like Ottawa, chatter at parties and coffee shops frequently turns to what's going on with the employer. Right now in the capital, conversations between public servants, who are already adept at speaking in acronyms, revolve around WFA and DRAP — workforce adjustment and deficit reduction action plan.

The federal public service is going to lose 19,200 jobs over the next three years as part of the government’s plan to balance the budget by 2015-16. While more information is starting to be released since Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled his budget a week ago, there’s a lot of uncertainty around the cuts. Here are five things you should know about them.

Notification doesn’t mean unemployment

Workers will be notified early this month if they are "affected" by the cuts and the date the position would end. But getting an affected notice doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be unemployed: the government expects 7,000 of the 19,200 job cuts to go through attrition as people who would normally be retiring or otherwise departing the public service move on. That will leave some affected positions or workers safe.

It's a multi-step process

After the affected notice and depending on movement within the unit, some positions will be declared surplus. If jobs are declared surplus, workers could be offered other positions for which they are qualified, or they are given the option of applying for other jobs within six months or taking severance and leaving the public service.

The cuts are merit-based

Public sector union members don't have the ability to bump those with less seniority out of their jobs during cuts, meaning it’s up to management to determine who stays and who has to find another job.

Many cuts are Ottawa-based

The government says most of the cuts will be in the National Capital Region, or Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. "The regional distribution of employment in the federal public service will be largely unaffected by the implementation of the departmental spending reductions," the 2012 budget says.

It's not clear how deep the cuts go

While the budget gave a target number of 19,200 cuts, PSAC spokespeople said the actual number is likely to be higher, with temporary jobs ending and not being replaced. Plus, the union said, there are still cuts remaining from the last round of "operational review" in which each department had to trim its budget. That said, 19,200 cuts represent less than half the growth in the public service since the Conservatives took office in 2006.