Lay-off policy let go
New plan allows more flexibility, says government

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 10/00) - The no lay-off policy, introduced by the last government following dramatic cuts to the public service, got a pink slip this week.

On Monday the territorial government introduced a policy to replace it -- called the staff retention policy -- that the government says will increase its organizational flexibility and at the same time reduce staff turnover.

Officials said the territorial government has an annual turnover rate of 18 per cent.

The Union of Northern Workers, which represents most territorial government employees, said it is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new policy.

"We're watching and monitoring but we're not panicking," said union research and public affairs officer Barbara Wyness. Wyness said the main thing union representatives are monitoring is whether the implementation of the new policy will comply with provisions of the collective agreement.

Wyness noted that though the no lay-off policy provided a level of security for government employees, it did not allow those who wanted to leave to get lay-off benefits -- essentially an enhanced severance package -- provided by the collective agreement.

"There are some members who are quite willing to be laid off and leave," said Wyness. "But if you quit there's no severance and no lay-off benefits, although there have been some members who have done that."

The union and government are currently negotiating a new collective agreement.

The new policy requires departments to report lay-off statistics and efforts made to minimize layoffs to the legislative assembly on an annual basis.

Departments are also required to develop strategies to retain employees when an organization change is contemplated.

A centralized database of job vacancies will be maintained by Corporate Human Resource services, part of the department of the executive.

Under the policy, a staff development retraining fund will be established to retrain laid off workers for other jobs in government.

Wyness said the $250,000 the government has earmarked for the fund will not go very far toward retraining, considering it costs approximately $30,000 to send one employee south for a year of education.

Finance Minister Joe Handley could not be reached for comment.