It was the news Veterans Affairs Canada employees knew was eventually coming and on Thursday 55 employees learned their jobs were being cut in P.E.I.
Debi Buell, a spokeswoman for the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, said they likely won’t be the last with the department still planning to cut about 800 more across the country.
“There’s still more coming,” she said.
Those numbers were disputed later Thursday by a spokesperson for VAC in Ottawa who told The Guardian: “Not a single job was lost today in P.E.I.”
Janice Summerby, a VAC media relations adviser, said while 233 letters were sent to officials across the country, in P.E.I. only 22 positions are impacted.
“Currently there are approximately 135 staff in P.E.I. eligible to retire. We expect that the vast majority of those positions in P.E.I. will be addressed through attrition, alternation and good human resource management,” said Summerby.
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) held meetings across the country Thursday, first with managers notifying staff whose jobs were affected or made surplus. A second series of meetings were held to provide all VAC employees with information about the cuts. In Charlottetown, VAC held the meetings at the Murphy’s Community Centre.
The cuts were part of a previously announced plan to eliminate federal public sector jobs in an effort to balance the books.
Buell said the cuts in Charlottetown include eight at the district office and another 47 at the department’s headquarters. The department plans to close eight district offices across the country and announced it would do so by Feb. 28, 2014, she said.
"It's a pretty gloomy day." - Debi Buell, Union of Veterans Affairs Employees
Buell said there were 233 letters given out Thursday to affected employees across the country.
“It’s a pretty gloomy day,” she said.
Federal job cuts have been on the minds of many Islanders, including people within the provincial government, the City of Charlottetown and the two largest unions that represent federal employees who commissioned a study of their impact. That study found federal job cuts could cost P.E.I.’s economy up to $60 million. Another study the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released in November expected P.E.I. to lose 446 federal civil service jobs by 2015.
Buell said some of the affected employees may be able to find jobs within the department or elsewhere within the federal civil service, but once the positions are cut they are gone.
“In the economy of Prince Edward Island that’s not good because it makes your future look a little less bright for sure when these days happen and you get people getting letters like this,” she said.
“It hits home pretty hard.”