Mark Miller

Mark Miller

CFB Esquimalt union says ‘no thanks’ to morale booster

Feds’ appreciation party patronizing in wake of layoffs across the country: union boss

The union representing civilian employees at CFB Esquimalt plans to boycott celebrations meant to boost morale, as members protest layoffs and attrition at the base.

Public Service Week, scheduled for June 9 to 15, is a legislated annual event where federal employees are given several hours off for a complimentary lunch and to attend events in recognition of their efforts.

Base officials plan to hold their event June 5, but many union employees won’t be attending, said Mark Miller, B.C.’s vice-president of the Union of National Defence Employees.

“It’s difficult for us to accept being patted on the back at the same time as the government’s kicking us in the ass,” he said.

About 30 positions at the base have been eliminated through attrition or layoffs in the past two years, but hundreds more layoffs have occurred across Canada, said Randall Garrison, NDP MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

“Those who stay have to do more work with fewer people available, so it’s a pretty tough sell,” he said.

“I think the government has to work more closely with the unions, and in times of constrained resources, find better ways to save money than simply by cutting positions.”

Miller said the union is also worried about discussions to centralize engineering and public works decisions in Ottawa, which he says could lead to the removal of day-to-day decision-making power from the base commander.

“Historically, whenever anything is centralized and bundled, there’s a very real fear of it being contracted out,” he said.

While CFB Esquimalt hasn’t seen the same level of cuts to DND civilian jobs as other Canadian bases, the boycott is intended to support some 2,000 union members who have lost their jobs nationally.

“These people who are having their very lives upset, they know the federal government is not being sincere with their appreciation for us,” Miller said.

Base officials are aware of the union’s position on Public Service Week celebrations, said Capt. Jenn Jackson, CFB Esquimalt base public affairs officer.

“The event is meant to recognize the exemplary work done by the defence team’s civilian employees every day, so we do sincerely hope that all civilian employees will participate in the recognition. But we do respect that they may decide not to,” she said.

In 2012, nearly 17,000 Canadian public service positions were axed as a result of the federal government’s Budget 2012 implementation bill, which amounted to a 5.5 per cent reduction from 2011 staffing levels.

dpalmer@vicnews.com