Province cuts over 200 seasonal jobs

The President of the Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees (PEI UPSE) Union is disappointed with proposed changes to the PEI Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Highway Maintenance Summer Program that will result in over 200 workers across the province not returning to their seasonal jobs. "Premier Ghiz is very critical of the Federal Government in relation to federal job cuts in Prince Edward Island but when it comes to provincial workers, he seems to be attacking the regions and people who will be hit the hardest namely seasonal workers in rural areas," said President Shelley Ward.

The Union was told that all of the seasonal workers in the Summer Program were effectively laid off and about half of that number will be re-hired from this list of lay-offs for a 20 week schedule. Previously, there were two crews each working 14-week schedules. The Union has asked for the list of names of persons who received letters of lay-off and the Union will be working to ensure that all remaining positions will be filled from this list. Highway Maintenance workers provide a valuable public service keeping our transportation system in good repair and the Union would be concerned if an under qualified person obtained a position simply because of a political connection. The Union has been told that effective immediately there is a specific set of qualifications that will be required for these jobs and the Union expects that this will be adhered to. "The last thing we would want to see as a result of such a mass lay-off is politicians trying to fill these ranks with their own supporters," said Ward.

Once hired, these remaining workers will continue to be members of PEI UPSE and enjoy some of the benefits and wages of the provincial public service's collective agreement. Unfortunately," said Ward, "right now, seasonal casual workers do not have the same level of union protection as full-time classified employees but we are always trying to improve their situation with every round of collective bargaining." These changes to the Summer Program were made through changes in policy and the Union had no role in the decisions that were made. In fact, the way the changes were structured meant that the Union could do nothing to prevent the lay-offs. "The government made a decision and then told us that letters were being sent to their workers," said Ward. "We reviewed the situation and determined that government was acting outside the Collective Agreement but within their seasonal hiring and recall guidelines. They effectively kept us out of the loop."

The Union believes that changes to the Civil Service Act and Regulations are needed to improve hiring practices for seasonal and casual government workers and to better protect seasonal and casual workers within the Collective Agreement framework. President Ward encourages such workers, and all Islanders, to communicate with their elected officials in order to make these improvements happen.