The reserve in times of war

In the United States, the war on terrorism has seen President George W. Bush call up members of the National Guard to take up positions in the nation’s airports, and these “part-time soldiers” may also be put into action in military operations overseas, as they were in the Gulf War. Bush recently thanked employers for their patriotic support of the National Guard program that allows civilians to leave their jobs and fulfill military duties.

The Canadian Reserve, Canada’s equivalent to the National Guard, may also be called upon to play a role in the war. Has the possibility of losing a valued employee dampened employer interest in the reserve program?

Major Alexander Peterson, spokesperson for the Canadian Forces Liaison Council, says no. He says they frequently publicize the reserve across the country to many employers. They make a sales pitch and if an employer decides to get on board, they sign a statement of support and, so far, they haven’t received any negative responses.

“There hasn’t been any downturn (in employers’ responses.) We haven’t seen a drop in the number of statements of support,” says Peterson.

Although there is no decline in support, they have received numerous phone calls from concerned employers.

“There have been calls about ‘What do we do now?’ Especially from companies that have an affiliation with American companies. They have seen a lot of U.S. reservists get called up there,” he says. “About 46 per cent of their forces are reservists, so they rely heavily on them in situations like this.”

Peterson says he ensures employers know there are no plans to do across-the-board call ups of Canadian reserves “but a lot of people are anxious to put in place policies regarding military leave.”

These policies don’t put restrictions in place, in fact a common policy gives full support to the prospect of military leave from work. It usually states that the employer will sympathetically consider granting two weeks off for military training, the extension of military leave for longer training courses and the last level of support is up to a year of absence to go out on peace keeping missions.

“I’d say we’ve had around two dozen calls from consultants, lawyers and companies looking to strengthen their policies and see what they can do to support the reserve,” Peterson says. “There has actually been a big increase in cold calls coming in asking for advice and wanting to give support.

“It’s good for the country and they (employers) get value out of it,” he says. “When they (employers) see something happening, they know that stabilizing the situation will help the economy, the country, the citizens and they step up to the table as good corporate citizens and supporters with no questions asked.”

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