Cutbacks for cutbacks sense can be expensive

Two conflicting plans for the Compensation and Benefits employees of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) highlight the helter-skelter manner that cost-cutting measures are being  pursued by this government and its many departments. 

Under one plan that was announced on October 13th, HRSDC will be transferring all of their Compensation and Benefits positions to Winnipeg and Montreal over the next thirty months.  This amounts to relocating most of the 194 employees that serve in these positions from 34 sites across Canada.  The theory is that they can be more efficient and save on the cost of office space in the process.

A second plan which is set to be completed in 2015 – a full year after the consolidation in Montreal and Winnipeg will see all government departments’ Compensation and Benefit employees consolidated in Miramichi, New Brunswick.  Under this plan, the positions consolidated by HRSDC a year beforehand could vanish since it is not clear if those employees would be moved to New Brunswick. 

The fact that these plans are going ahead at the same time indicates that departments are not working with each other in their fat-trimming exercises and that there is little in the way of oversight as these initiatives go ahead.  Whether any savings will be realized by these efforts is also in question.

The Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU), which represents HRSDC employees, claim that any savings to be found in these initiatives will be dwarfed by the actual costs associated to workforce adjustment.   The cost of relocating employees will be exacerbated by the cost associated with the impending unemployment of any that do not wish to relocate again one year later, should both plans go ahead – which is currently the case.  Put another way; any HRSDC Compensation and Benefits employees who will be retained and still work in their positions come 2015 will have moved twice.

If the current trajectories of both ‘cost-saving plans continue, it is difficult to see that any money will be saved.  In the end, this will amount to expensive shell game that plays with the employment opportunities of nearly 200 federal employees at the same time.  The CEIU worries that those workers who relocate may feel they are protecting their jobs when they really aren’t.  These workers could find themselves unemployed and located in unfamiliar surroundings without the social network they had in their previous communities which could help soften the blow of a lost job and expedite  their search for their next one.

If the government is serious about trimming fat, they could do worse than to examine these competing plans.  If we are to get the best value for our tax dollars, it would make sense to maintain the current situation until a more comprehensive and well-planned alternative is found.