National Newswatch

Canada’s public servants are absent more than their private sector counterparts because they are unionized and a higher proportion of them are women and older workers, says Statistics Canada.

A Statistics Canada study that examined the differences between absences from work in the private and public sectors concluded those three factors explained about 80 per cent of the gap between the average 12.4 days public sector workers booked off work in 2012 and the 8.3 days taken by private sector employees.

The study is more fodder for the debate over absenteeism that has the Conservative government at loggerheads with unions representing federal public servants over its plans to overhaul sick leave.

Absenteeism is a major productivity issue for both sectors, and the soaring rate among federal bureaucrats is one of the big drivers behind the Conservative government’s plan to overhaul sick leave benefits and replace the existing regime with a short-term disability plan. Concessions on sick leave will be the key issue in what promises to be a heated round of collective bargaining in 2014.

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