Nearly 1,500 people working at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada received notices Thursday warning them that their jobs could be in jeopardy, two unions representing civil servants say.
And just hours after the notices went out, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the creation of a committee that will look at making even deeper cuts.
"The sub-committee will work to determine if there are any additional, common sense improvements to be made in government," Harper said in a statement.
"This is an example of our government’s commitment to spending Canadian taxpayers’ money responsibly by looking for potentially unnecessary expenses."
The sub-committee will be headed by Treasury Board president Tony Clement and is mandated to "consider proposals on whole-of-government opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness."
About 900 of those who received Thursday's notifications are members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, while the remainder fall under the umbrella of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
PSAC said another 149 RCMP employees have also told they could be losing their jobs.
"This is another sad day for our members, and a troubling day for Canadians across the country," said PSAC executive vice-president Chris Aylward.
"Hundreds more workers and their families are being handed an uncertain future, and Canadians across the country will inevitably by affected by service cuts."
Most of those affected at Human Resources are stationed in the Ottawa region and include medical adjudicators, nurses who determine eligibility for Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, and information technology specialists.
Employees who support the administration of employment insurance, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, the CPP and child-care benefits are also affected.
The potential RCMP cuts are spread across the country and affect forensic lab workers, police recruiters and clerical staff.
Since the 2012 budget, which warned of the federal government's forthcoming effort to reduce the size of the civil service, more than 18,000 PSAC members have received notices that they could lose their jobs, the union said.
"We are concerned about the impact of these cuts on our members and on the key services they provide Canadians," PIPSC vice-president Debi Daviau said in a statement.
"It may well be yet another step towards outsourcing public-service work to the private sector, where data privacy and security are an issue."
The Conservatives insisted Thursday that the general public won't notice the cuts and that many of the affected employees will likely be reassigned.
"HRSDC is reducing duplication and unnecessary administration within the internal IT division," Alyson Queen, the director of communications for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, said in an email.
"The number of letters sent to IT staff ... is not an indication of positions being reduced."
The changes announced Thursday to employees "do not affect front line services to Canadians," she added.
But there are already clear indications that government cuts are hurting those who need services the most, said New Democrat MP Nycole Turmel, who used to lead PSAC. A couple of years ago, employment insurance payments to first-time recipients used to be delivered in about two weeks, but are now taking weeks longer to reach those who have lost their jobs, she said.
"This is the latest Conservative attack against services Canadians rely on," said Turmel.
"The Conservatives claim to be champions of the economy, but they’re cutting good jobs, leaving thousands of families in dire straits and hurting local economies."
The latest round of potential cuts is the second this year for workers at Human Resources. More than 5,000 employees — over 22 per cent of the department's workforce — have now received so-called "affected" notices from the department, PIPSC said.
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