Government workers abusing sick days, costing Canada $3.5 billion



OTTAWA - The government wants to use the next round of contract talks to crack down on public workers abusing sick days.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement was responding to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business study that found federal employees are costing taxpayers $3.5 billion annually by calling in sick or taking personal days.

Clement said Tuesday it was "absolutely nonsense" employees are stressed out because of what unions say are increased workloads due to downsizing under the Tories.

The CFIB said federal workers averaged 15.2 sick, disability and personal days. The public sector average is 12.9 days, compared to 8.2 days in the private sector.

"I don't think anybody believes that public sector workers just get sick more often, yet something makes them feel entitled to more time," CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement.

Clement said the numbers are not new.

"But to the extent that anyone is taking advantage of that situation does concern us because we are responsible to the taxpayer," he said.

"You should get a signal from me that this is an item that we are discussing with the public sector unions and would form part of our discussion when we get into the next bargaining cycle."

Clement wouldn't say whether he would scrap the provision that allows workers to bank unused days, take lump-sum payments or use them to retire early.

Kelly said the accumulation of unused days should be discontinued and fewer sick days permitted.

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