For the next month transit signs in three New Brunswick cities will highlight why Service Canada simply can’t handle any more cuts. Bus signs in Fredericton and Saint John, and transit shelter signs in Moncton will call on clients of Service Canada experiencing prolonged wait times to contact Service Canada’s Office of Client Satisfaction. Until recently the office’s toll-free number was withheld from clients.
“This government needs to hear directly from the users just how taxed the system is,” says Deborah Gray, National Vice-President for New Brunswick with the Canadian Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU). ”Over 55% of EI decisions are still more than 29 days old.”
In August 2011, the federal government announced that EI processing centres will be reduced from 120 to 22 by 2014. 600 jobs will be lost nationally and 167 in the Atlantic. This year’s federal budget announced an additional $183.2 million cut to Human Resources and Development Canada. It is still unclear how exactly this will affect Service Canada’s operations.
“The budget claims it will ‘modernize’ and reduce the ‘back office,” says Gray. “I know first hand that when you take the back office out of the service, you take the service away from Canadians.”
The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its component union CEIU are concerned that any further reductions to Service Canada will be devastating for the most vulnerable in the country – the unemployed and seniors who rely on timely access to benefits just to get by.
“We are calling on this government to rethink its choices and provide a way forward that protects the economy and the services we rely on,” says Gray.
PSAC represents over 180,000 workers, primarily in the federal public sector