Among the thousands of federal public service workers affected by the most recent round of job cuts in late June were nearly 500 civilian workers at the Department of National Defence. Laurel Jones, an ex-soldier with 20 years’ experience in the Canadian Forces, was informed she may be one of 88 workers in Petawawa losing their jobs.
Medically discharged from the military five years ago, Jones went on to earn a diploma and become an administrative assistant at CFB Petawawa. She feels betrayed by a government that has repeatedly promised to take care of sick and injured veterans (Don Butler, “Disabled ex-soldier now faces layoff from her public service job,” Ottawa Citizen, 5 July 2012):
When her adjutant called to say her position was likely to be eliminated, “I was just completely astounded,” she said. As a long-serving veteran with the knowledge and skills to do her civilian job, “I never thought that it could possibly ever happen to me.”
“They released me medically from the military and they put me on priority hiring because I do have a disability,” she said. “Now I’m out again, with no future.”
“They’re essentially just throwing me out on the street for the second time,” Jones said.
Especially insulting is the fact that on the same day DND civilian workers were told their jobs were in jeopardy, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant were at CFB Petawawa cutting the ribbon for a new facility to provide support to ill and injured personnel. Announcing contracts for additional facilities in the area, MacKay and Gallant spoke of the government’s commitment to supporting Canada’s men and women in uniform and of the new projects’ economic benefits for Petawawa and surrounding communities (David Pugliese, “Defence Minister blasted over timing of layoffs,” Postmedia News, 28 June 2012).
John MacLennan, national president of the Union of National Defence Employees, said he was shocked by the insensitivity and bad taste reflected in the timing of the announcements:
I think it’s just thoughtless for MacKay to go there when at the same time people are being told they are losing their jobs. The value of what they do and the value of their salaries to a small community like Petawawa is much more than the value of a new building the minister has announced before.
While the treatment of Jones exemplifies how the government’s pledges to injured veterans are little more than “window dressing,” said MacLennan, Jones’ situation is just one of many cases:
Veterans “gave literally a pound of flesh for this country,” MacLennan said. By notifying people such as Jones that their jobs are in jeopardy, “the government is definitely falsifying taking care of the troops once they get out.”
“As a union, our position is that an injury to one is an injury to all when people start losing their jobs,” he said. “There are all kinds of decisions being made here that aren’t fair or justified.”
Photo credit: DND