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Job cuts tear into CFB Esquimalt: union

 Ongoing civilian job cuts through attrition at CFB Esquimalt are leaving trouble in their wake, says a union leader.

“If you keep peeling the onion, eventually you’re going to end up with nothing,” said Mark Miller, B.C. vice-president of the Union of National Defence Employees, which represents about 1,200 of the 2,000 civilians employed at CFB Esquimalt.

“All that’s going to be left will be the tears,” he said.

As civilian employees retire, their jobs – from trades to labourers to administration – are being filled with casual and short-term contract workers until military officials decide whether to keep those positions, Miller said.

He said he doesn’t know how many positions will be affected.

After an edict was handed down in October, a similar move has been taking place at bases across Canada, a result of tightening the federal purse strings.

Other federal departments have also been asked to trim their budgets, said Keith Martin, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

That translates to shaving at least five per cent off the Department of National Defence base budget, Martin said from Ottawa, adding that there has also been talk of scaling back the number of military reservists.

But as Miller is now finding out, filling the vacant spots with casual hires is challenging because approval must now come from senior military brass at CFB Esquimalt and Ottawa.

Job vacancies mean workers must do twice the work, and uncertainty over job stability is affecting morale, Miller said.

“We’re looking at the thin edge of the wedge with burn outs coming on,” he said. “If we can’t do our jobs then the military can’t do theirs.”

Talk of budget cuts actually relates to a review aimed at identifying up to five per cent in funding redundancies that is now wrapping up in the Department of National Defence, said a spokesperson for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Until the findings go before cabinet for possible approval in early 2011, any comment on future staffing reductions would be premature, said Jay Paxton.

While a 20-year strategic defence document outlines the need for more regular force members and reservists by 2028, it doesn’t mention boosting the civilian workforce, which now stands at 28,000.

emccracken@vicnews.com

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