Outsourcing Report Spooks Ottawa's 3,000 Unionized Tech Workers

Liberal gov't needs to make intentions clear, says public service labour leader.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 24 Mar 2016 |

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

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Public service union leader Debi Daviau: 'All their words say one thing, but all of the signals point in another direction.'

The union representing the government's IT workers says Ottawa needs to be clearer on its plans for their department, following a leaked report that recommended massive layoffs and outsourcing.

CBC news reports the previous Conservative government paid PricewaterhouseCoopers $250,000 to examine the possibilities of outsourcing much of Shared Services Canada (SCC).

The department oversees digital information, such as government email systems.

According to the CBC, the report said the federal government could save $50 million a year by eliminating 3,000 employees and outsourcing the jobs.

The Liberal government said in a statement after the news broke today: "There is no plan to eliminate jobs at SSC."

But that isn't easing the nerves of Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

"It's not that assuring," Daviau said, "because we'd like to know what their plans are then. All their words say one thing, but all of the signals point in another direction."

She said many of the managers who oversaw previous outsourcing of SSC duties are still in charge of the department.

Though she doubts senior bureaucrats will act "out of line with the government's direction," Daviau said the Liberals need to make that direction plain.

Mulcair shares concerns

Daviau said outsourcing doesn't just mean the loss of jobs for government staffers.

She pointed to an audit released in February showing the department hasn't adequately tracked its spending, and that outsourcing may have cost far more than expected.

As well, the company that prepared the report, PricewaterhouseCoopers, offers outsourcing of IT shared services as a business line. Daviau said the opportunity for the firm to make money from its own recommendations makes the report suspect.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair shares the SSC workers' distrust of Liberal assertions that their jobs are safe.

Mulcair said that if SSC operates the way it should -- as an autonomous department -- the government should have no say in whether or not it outsources jobs.

"Either they're going to be allowed to pursue their mandate and this is their study and that's what's happening," he told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday, "or the government has taken over something that's supposed to be an autonomous agency."

He added that laying off so many workers would be a bad start to the Liberals' promise of better relations with civil servants.

Mulcair wasn't lacking in his own advice for the 'autonomous' SSC though. If it did try to go through with outsourcing, he said, it would likely find out it isn't as easy as the report suggests.

Meanwhile, Daviau said she is arranging a meeting with Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote to discuss the union's concerns.  [Tyee]

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