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A worker pickets outside the Human Resources and Skill Developement building in St. Catharines, Ont. during a 2004 strike by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.Blair Gable

Federal public servants across Canada are on edge as a "substantial" number of federal departments will be informing staff who might be affected by Ottawa's plan to trim 19,200 government jobs.

Union leaders have already been told some of the details, but promised government departments not to release that information until the affected staff have been notified directly.

John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said he's been given a heads up that a substantial number of federal departments will be making announcements to staff Wednesday.

Mr. Gordon said it's not clear when and how public servants will receive these notices.

The information is expected to trickle out throughout the day, given that each department appears to have different ways of informing affected staff. Also, federal public servants work across the country in different time zones.

Last week's 2012 federal budget unveiled a plan to save $5.2-billion-a-year largely by cutting the number of public servants and ending some government programs. The budget said 19,200 positions would be eliminated, but expected that 7,200 of those jobs could be vacated via attrition.

Given the rules in place for public sector layoffs, however, far more than 19,200 people could receive notices that their jobs may be "affected." The rules – called Workforce Adjustment – outline the options available to affected employees. Those options include early retirement, or switching jobs with an employee who is not affected but who has expressed a desire to retire.

The rules encourage older affected employees to retire by allowing financial penalties for early retirement to be waived.

After some of these options have been exhausted, the remaining positions are divvied up by management according to merit, not seniority. Those that are left without a job may be offered one of several options, including a guarantee of a reasonable job offer. Others could be offered something instead of a job offer guarantee, such as a 12-month paid surplus period to look for other work, a lump sum payment or a lump sum plus up to $11,000 for tuition.