Houston Government Funding Cuts Leave 30 People Jobless as Holidays Approach

NSGEU President Jason MacLean is calling on the Houston government to stop punishing the front-line staff at Island Employment and focus their attention where it belongs, on the senior managers responsible for the fiscal mismanagement of the organization. Tomorrow, November 19, is the last day for most of the Island Employment staff.

“By cutting funding the government left 30 people without jobs, just as the holiday season is coming,” said MacLean. “The government owes these 30 people an explanation and tell them why it was better to cut their funding and take away their jobs, rather than conduct a transparent audit to hold those people actually responsible to account”

On October 1, 2021 staff at Island Employment were informed that the province was ending its contract six months early and ultimately leading to the ceasing of operations and job losses for all staff. The government’s decision came on the heels of a damning report by the Office of the Nova Scotia Ombudsman, that found a misuse or gross mismanagement of public funds or assets at Island Employment.

The Ombudsman’s report (https://ombudsman.novascotia.ca/sites/default/files/documents/annual_reports/OmbudsAR-2020-2021.pdf ) outlined 11 recommendations to Island Employment to improve practices and procedures, and six recommendations were directed for the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

Not a single recommendation made by the Ombudsman called for the closing of Island Employment and the Minister of Labour has not provided a full explanation for the Department’s decision to end funding resulting in the closure of Island Employment.

“Thirty staff members of Island Employment went to work every day to deliver important services to those who needed them, never once was their job performance an issue,” said MacLean. “Once the financial mismanagement came to light the government tried to make the situation go away by stopping the funding and closing down the organization. This choice lets the senior staff of Island Employment avoid accountability for their mismanagement and punishes working people right before Christmas. It’s clear the wrong people are being hurt by this decision and it’s not right.”

The 30 staff set to lose their jobs were informed on November 15th that they will be entitled to 8 weeks severance with no guarantees of future employment.

Despite numerous calls by opposition parties and the NSGEU for an audit of Island Employment to get to the bottom of what took place the government has stated that no further review is necessary.

“No one knows what actually took place, how the funds were mismanaged, or who is responsible,” said MacLean. “The only sure thing is that 30 people, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs because of problems with Island Employment’s management and a lack of board and government oversight. Without any further review, there will be no accountability for the misuse of public funds and those responsible will not be held to account. Why should working people pay the price for the wrongdoing of senior managers?”

These now unemployed workers deserve answers, it’s time for the Houston government to shine a spotlight on the mismanagement of Island Employment and protect the reputations of these 30 individuals who did their job properly and served their community.


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