Federal employees not paid for Games

Federal employees must take unpaid leave if they want to volunteer during working hours for the Canada Winter Games.

Federal employees must take unpaid leave if they want to volunteer during working hours for the Canada Winter Games.

Territorial and municipal employees will be able to collect paycheques while volunteering, but Ottawa won’t extend a similar deal to its workers.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada for the North.

PSAC represents about 400 employees in the Yukon.

“This is the largest sporting event to take place north of 60, and it’s quite a feat for a city the size of Whitehorse to be able to put that on,” said Des Lauriers.

“It’s been said time and time again that we’ll need every last person to help out.”

Under the federal government’s policy, employees can apply for paid leave to train or participate in international sporting events, such as the Arctic Winter Games.

Because the Canada Games is a national event there is no such program available.

“To adhere strictly to that policy for fear of setting a precedent is kind of absurd,” said Des Lauriers from Ottawa.

“This is a situation that is unique in the history of the Canada Winter Games. They’re usually held in the large centres where there’s a pool of volunteers available that’s much larger than in the Yukon.

“It seems, logically, that they would make this accommodation to help the territory pull off this sporting event.”

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell has written letters to both the federal Sport and Treasury Board ministers asking that a special consideration be made for Games volunteers.

“This is a special situation; this is the biggest event in the history of the North and it requires a huge amount of volunteers,” said Bagnell.

“The point I was making is that this is a one-time only situation and should not be allowed as a precedent.”

Currently, the Games have recruited close to 3,500 volunteers.

It’s hoping to attract a total of 4,000.

“We’re looking good,” said Dave Pearson, vice-president of the volunteer division for the Canada Games Host Society.

“We’re asking people to volunteer for a minimum 24 hours through the Games period but lots of them are giving us a lot more than that,” he added.

PSAC does not have stats on the number of federal employees volunteering for the Games.

So far, 15 Whitehorse employees — outside of those already working at Games venues — have applied to be reassigned under the city’s staff-participation policy, said administrative director Robert Fendrick.

The Yukon government has not tallied the number of its employees taking “leave without loss of pay” during the Games because those requests are dealt with separately in each department, said Yukon Public Service Commission spokesperson Liz McKee.

The Games will run from February 23 to March 10, 2007.