Alberta Release: PSAC-UNDE Call for End to Contracting Out of Civilian Work within Department of National Defence

For Immediate Release – Friday, October 30, 2020

EDMONTON – 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 extensions, a lack 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.

“Alberta is riddled with examples of unnecessary contracting out ranging from facilities management and cleaning to kitchen staff to emergency medical response staff. We even have public sector trades people being replaced with contracted ‘handymen’. Our bases deserve the highest quality of work, not cutting corners for profit’s sake,” stated Peter Devlin, Local 30910 President. “UNDE hears incidents of contracts issued through members at the base but cannot find any public records. If there are public dollars involved, there should be public accountability, period.” 

Public service janitorial workers used to be larger in scale but are slowly being eroded. In 2019, an advanced procurement notice was issued for Wainright Garrison for janitorial services with a total cost of $6 million over 3 years to supplement the work of the public service. 

“This isn’t a matter of switching private contractors, it’s about getting out of the privatization game all together – we tried it and it failed.” added Devlin. “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.”

Having a strong public service has substantial economic benefits for local communities through jobs creation and increased spending power. Each dollar spent by the public sector adds $1.77 in economic benefits to the national economy and raises the GDP by $1.22. Every full-time job created in the federal public sector contributes to the creation of 1.91 jobs.

In its 2018-2019 budget, DND invested nearly $4 billion of public money in contracts with private companies. There is currently at least $19 million dedicated to private contracts in Alberta. 

“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,” added 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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