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Few government employees volunteer for shortened work week

VICTORIA - Just 650 British Columbia public sector employees have volunteered to take one day off each week to save the government money, far short of earlier projections.

The Vancouver Sun on May 17 quoted Kim Henderson, head of the Workforce Planning and Leadership Secretariat, saying the move could save the government $5 million and protect about 50 jobs if 2,000 people took the time off.

The CBC had it at 15,000 employees possibly taking the time and saving $5 million, while News 1130 reported that “if every eligible worker volunteers then $37 million could be saved or about 370 full-time positions.”

But by the morning of May 29, the deadline day for employees to apply, just 650 people had put their names in to participate, according to a spokesperson for the ministry of advanced education and labour market development.

That's enough to save the government just $1.6 million and protect 16 jobs, about a third of Henderson's earlier estimate.

“We didn’t have a specific target for participation,” the ministry official said in an e-mail. “Our first priority was to ensure service delivery is maintained for the public and avoid significant impacts on operations, which does limit the number of employees able to participate.”

The government still expects with other measures to keep the job losses to less than five percent of the 30,000 person workforce, he said.

Conditions for the voluntary time off were agreed to in a letter of understanding with the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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