03/07/2012 07:08 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Veterans Affairs cut will hit services, says union

The federal government plans to make cuts at Veterans Affairs without fully understanding what the results of those cuts will be, says the union representing workers in the department.

The department is preparing for cuts of between five and 10 per cent. Tuesday night an NDP motion to exempt the department from cutbacks was voted down by the government.

The federal government says it will make cut backs through retirement.

Yvan Thauvette, national president of the Union for Veterans Affairs Employees, told CBC News more thought needs to be given to the effect of those cuts.

"They are cutting positions even if they don't know what will be the end out of those changes into the system. So that's sad," said Thauvette.

"People are overwhelmed in a lot of district offices. Service delivery, they want to cut positions and most of those positions are frontline staff people. Do you believe that the service will be the same? No it won't."

Benefits won't be affected

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney’s spokesman said he wants “to be very clear in saying that all current benefits for veterans will be maintained.”

Jean-Christophe de le Rue, Blaney’s press secretary, said his minister’s top priority is to provide veterans with the best possible service without bureaucratic red tape.

He said that’s why Blaney launched the Cutting Red Tape for Veterans initiative on Feb. 21.

“Our government will continue to stand up for our veterans the same way they have stood up for Canada,” de le Rue said. “The changes within the department are due to the fact that some employees will be retiring over the next five years."

P.E.I. economy could suffer

Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey, who represents the riding where Veterans Affairs head office is located, is concerned about the impact in his province.

"I don't think there is any doubt that this is going to have a devastating effect on the economy of Prince Edward Island," said Casey.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is a major economic cog. I mean, it's a $100-million pay roll. You start cutting that payroll by a 100 jobs a year, then it can't help but to hurt."

Even without cuts to the overall department budget the news is not good for the Charlottetown office. Blaney has said jobs of pay and benefit sections are being relocated out of the city.

Thauvette said there might be enough time to appeal the decision before the federal budget is tabled, and Casey is urging people to lobby Conservative MPs.

The federal budget will be announced March 29.