Manitoba Release: Report Reveals Failures of Privatization by Department of National Defence

For Immediate Release – Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WINNIPEG – This week, PSAC-UNDE released a report detailing the failure of privatization within the Department of National Defence. Most Department of National Defence (DND) bases contract out facilities management, cleaning, food preparation, grass cutting, and trades work. Services critical to DND operations, such as helicopter maintenance and airport management, are also contracted out. 

The report raises serious concerns about the ballooning cost of privatization through contract amendments and extension of contracts, the issue of transparency of government funds with private contracts and the human rights record and poor service delivery of contracted companies both in Canada and abroad.

“Once the contract goes out the door, Canadians have no way of knowing how public money is being spent because of the protection of competitive advantages and corporate interests clauses in the Access to Information Act,” stated Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, PSAC-Prairies. “Without the details of these contracts, the public has no information on inspection reports, employee salaries, equipment expenses, or profits made by the companies. When employees report being told to water down cleaning products and ration supplies, those details become very important.”

Canadian Forces Base (CFB) budgets are structured to favour private contractors over hiring public sector employees. The budgetary allotment to pay wages and benefits of public sector workers through the Salary Wage Envelope (SWE) pale in comparison to the generous funds for contracted services in the Operations and Maintenance contract envelope (O+M). Base Commanders lose the flexibility to use the public service rather than contract out, even if contracting out is more expensive.

“Over a decade ago, we experienced the failure of privatization at 17 Wing in Winnipeg. Civilian cleaners had their hours reduced from 8 to 6 hours. Any work required outside those 6 hours was contracted out,” shared Mona Simcoe, UNDE Regional Vice President – Manitoba and Saskatchewan. “It didn’t take long for there to be complaints about the quality of work provided by the private company. Contracting out created the problem and contracting the work back in has solved it.”

Despite this lesson, contracting out continues to be a problem. As recently as last week, at 17 Wing, when additional cleaning requirements for the gym were identified, DND’s proposed solution was to contract out this work. However, additional cleaning needs because of COVID-19 will be required well beyond any short contract. The best solution for 17 Wing and workers is to hire public sector workers who will provide good service, in a decent job for a decent wage while enabling management control on safety and security. Contracting back in this civilian work makes the most sense for both the employer and employee.

“This isn’t a matter of switching private contractors to ensure quality, safe work conditions, this is a matter of getting out of the privatization game all together – we tried it and it failed,” added Simcoe. “By investing public dollars into the public service, we know we are investing in quality work with transparency and accountability and good, stable jobs for the people of our communities. Strengthening the public service helps strengthen our local economies.”

In its 2018-2019 budget, DND invested nearly $4 billion of public money in contracts with private companies. There is currently at least $6.5 million dedicated to private contracts in Manitoba.

“PSAC-UNDE has analyzed the data and heard directly from affected workers and the findings are clear: Canadians pay more to get less through privatization, all while undermining fair and safe labour practises, labour relations and the security of our bases,” stated Hladun. “Now is the time to put an end to these private contracts and begin contracting back in the civilian work on DND bases. The safety and security of Canada’s military depends on it.”


For more information:
Alanna Makinson
Regional Communications Officer
Public Service Alliance of Canada - Prairies

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