Overtime, sick days cost Nova Scotia taxpayers $38 million last year

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s Public Service Commissioner says overtime and sick days within the civil service cost the province $38 million in 2012-13.

Laura Lee Langley told the legislature’s public accounts committee today that $12 million was paid in overtime while absenteeism due to sick days, and long term and short term disability cost an additional $26 million.

Langley said that doesn’t include costs incurred by workers in the health care sector who aren’t directly employed by the civil service.

The official opposition said if you factor in those numbers the costs could be even higher.

“When you consider that it’s excluded the DHAs (District Health Authorities) and probably the school boards and things like that, the cost to taxpayers, to the province of Nova Scotia, is significantly higher than $26 million, that’s a big number, that’s a concern,” said Tim Houston, the Progressive Conservative Party’s finance critic.

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Langley said her department is working to reduce the costs. “As far as we are concerned we want to and we believe that we can reduce that number.”

But the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is questioning why it’s taken so long to shrink that $38 million price tag.

“The question is why hasn’t the government done something about this sooner, to control these runaway costs in the amount of absenteeism and overtime,” said Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director for the federation.

The departments with the most overtime in 2013-14 include Justice at $4.5 million, Transportation at $3.7 million and Community Services, which paid out $1.8 million.

Overall, Langley said overtime costs have been consistent year-to-year and amount to about two per cent of what the government pays in salaries.

Langley said government employees book on average 12.6 sick days each year, a number she says the province is working to reduce through various programs that focus on health needs and long-term disabilities.

 – With files from the Canadian Press