Marianne Hladun takes on “half-baked” sick leave editorial

Marianne Hladun submitted a letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald in response to “Editorial: Federal civil servants’ sick day provisions make us queasy,” published on April 17, 2013.


Marianne Hladun submitted a letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald in response to “Editorial: Federal civil servants’ sick day provisions make us queasy,” published on April 17, 2013. The letter was published in the Calgary Herald on June 20, 2013.

Re: Editorial: Federal civil servants’ sick day provisions make us queasy

Tony Clement certainly deserves credit, though not for drawing attention to the “problem” of absenteeism. Instead, we should congratulate him for creating a successful diversion tactic to distract from the near daily scandals that plague the Conservative caucus. However, his latest claim, true to form, lacks any supporting evidence to back it up.

According to numbers from 2011/12, public service workers took an average of 17.4 sick days off per year, 11.6 paid and 5.8 unpaid. Who is included in these numbers? How many of those are workers with extended illnesses who are using up sick leave before qualifying for long-term disability? How is this average skewed by workers who require more time off due to high-risk and high-stress workplaces?

Clement also claims that on any given day, 19,000 federal government workers are off sick. In 2011, the federal government had 282,352 employees on payroll, which means 19,000 workers accounts for less than 7 per cent of the workforce. If we scale down those big, scary numbers, it would mean less than two employees in an office of 25 are off sick.

Finally, the half-baked comparison between banking sick leave and receiving insurance money for almost getting in an accident would be less asinine if civil servants could cash out their banked sick leave to take a vacation or retire early, but that’s not the case. Sick leave is an insurance policy and banking sick leave allows civil servants faced with the physical and emotional hardship of serious illness to recover without added financial burden.

Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, PSAC Prairie Region