The implementation of a restructuring plan announced today by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will require close monitoring to ensure that staff do not suffer job losses, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
"On the surface what was announced today by the MNR appears to provide a certain degree of job protection for most staff," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "But after almost 20 years of relentless funding cutbacks that have severely weakened the services of the ministry, we know first-hand that the MNR has been a favourite target of successive Conservative and Liberal governments looking to cut public services."
Under the restructuring plan announced today as many as 102 jobs in 24 field offices covered by the OPSEU collective agreement could be lost, despite the ministry"s pledge to hire for 250 jobs sourced from new and vacant positions. Those most at risk at losing their jobs are administrative staff, digital mapping staff, regulatory compliance officers, foresters and biologists.
"The ministry is tossing around a lot of numbers in an effort to show that the impacts will be minimal," said Thomas. "But the net effect is that the more time field officers spend doing office work means less time they spend in the field ensuring that our natural resources are being protected through regulatory safeguards. Under this restructuring they won"t have the same amount of quality time to do the work for which they are trained professionals."
The jobs of 40 field staff workers will be moved to new locations, including removing all field staff from Chatham, Clinton, Espanola, Gogama and Manitouwadge area offices and the Terrace Bay and Tweed work centres. The plan calls for the Tweed centre to be closed altogether.
The result is that many employees will find themselves commuting to offices up to from the lands and water they are trained to protect.
Geographical information system (GIS) officers, administrative assistants and business services clerks will comprise more than 50 per cent of the planned layoffs. These employees conduct much of the ministry"s digital mapping work, technological support, human resources administration and clerical support in the districts. Their loss could have serious consequences, according to the vice-chair of the union"s employee relations committee.
"The GIS officers coordinate digital mapping operations which are the basis of all resource planning," said Ed Evens. "Resource management and planning will suffer as a result of the loss of administrative positions which are key to the smooth running of the work we do as a ministry."
Vice-chair MNR MERC
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