Government employee survey shows harassment, impact of job cuts

The 2014 Public Service Employee Survey released yesterday continues to demonstrate the negative impact of public service cuts. The survey results also raise major concerns about the continuing problems of harassment and poor mental health in the public service. Despite these problems, most public service workers are committed to doing a good job.

The Public Service Employee Survey is conducted every three years, and takes an important snapshot of how federal government workers feel about their jobs and work environment. A total of 182,165 employees in 93 federal departments and agencies responded to the 2014 survey.

Cuts to the public service

The survey results show troubling signs regarding public service workers’ ability to provide quality public services. Fewer workers now feel that they have support to provide a high level of service in their jobs.  The number of workers who responded positively to this statement has dropped significantly from the last survey in 2011.  

  • Most public service workers stated:
    • they were proud of the work they do (88%),
    • they get a sense of satisfaction from their work (74%), and
    • agreed that they are “willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done” (93%).

However, these numbers are down from the previous survey, which shows that morale is declining among workers.

  • Nearly half of workers surveyed (48%) said the quality of their work suffers because of “having to do the same or more work, but with fewer resources”. This was up from 44% in 2011 and 42% in 2008.
    • Workers also cited lack of stability in their department or agency and high staff turnover as negatively impacting the quality of their work. 

“Based on these results, it is clear to us that the cuts to the public service have had a direct impact on the ability of workers to provide the quality of public services that Canadians deserve,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, “they do not feel supported in their work and are having to do more with less.”

Mental health and harassment at work

Addressing workers’ mental health requires confronting workplace harassment, discrimination, abuse, stress, unfairness and disrespect. Employers must create and maintain both a physically and psychologically safe workplace. Currently, almost half of all disability claims in the public service are related to mental health conditions.

The survey results show that the factors that contribute to poor mental health at work are on the rise.

  • Fewer workers report being able to balance work and personal life, and fewer receive recognition for work well done.
  • Workers also report having fewer opportunities to provide input into their work. As we already know, these factors are important to a worker’s mental well-being.
  • Another troubling sign in the survey is that employees continue to report significant levels of harassment at work: about 1 in 5 workers reports that they have been the victim of harassment at work.
    • Many of those who were harassed did not file a formal complaint or grievance; when asked why, most said they were afraid of reprisal or did not believe it would make a difference

“This survey makes it clear that the problems in the public service work environment are not being addressed and in fact, things are getting worse,” concluded Benson, “PSAC has recently tabled bargaining demands that aim to address psychological health in the public service. There is no longer any excuse for Treasury Board to ignore these problems, they must come to the table and work with us towards improving conditions.”

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February 6, 2015
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