Heating plant privatization: Government leadership refuses to take responsibility

PSAC is extremely concerned by the position taken by  Assistant Deputy Ministers (ADMs) at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) towards PSAC members serving at heating and coolings plants in the National Capital Region.

Following PSAC’s campaign launch to stop the privatization of the plants, Kevin Radford, ADM for Real Property Services, told Le Droit that privatization must go forward because current public workers are retiring and PSPC cannot find qualified workers to replace them. He claimed that PSPC has “put a lot of effort into hiring new technicians ... but the size of the team decreases each year.” David Schwartz, ADM, of the Procurement Branch also told Le Droit that private workers are necessary because “... we want to be up to date with best practices.”

These statements highlight the ongoing hollowing out of the public service due to poor political leadership and bad planning and management. If PSPC is having trouble replacing retiring workers, it’s because the wages being offered are not high enough. PSAC previously undertook a joint pay study with the government that showed a 95% wage discrepancy between public and private sector workers having skills in areas related to heating and cooling plant operations. If the government planned accordingly, they could offer the wages and working conditions to not only attract the number of employees needed, but also expand the existing skill set with new hires - as well as provide current staff with the opportunity to update their skills if required.

Rather than privatizing operations, which is necessarily more expensive given that public dollars must also serve the profit margins of corporations, PSPC could simply improve compensation for its own staff, which would attract new talent to replace retiring workers.

Public sector workers provide the highest quality, publicly accountable work. But a strong public sector requires effective management that provides the capacity for workers to upgrade skills and experience as technology advances.

We know that privatization of public infrastructure, and P3s in particular, usually cost more than a fully public option, carry an inherent financial risk to government,, and often result in safety and security breaches. Here in Ottawa, both the current over-budget, behind schedule LRT, and the smaller-than-planned, over-budget Royal Ottawa Hospital, are examples of P3 failures.

It’s clear from the government’s reaction that they’re determined to continue to privatize public services, even in the face of clear evidence that good jobs, public safety and financial accountability are at risk. This is reckless and it has to stop.  We continue to respectfully ask:

  1. Halt this project as it is currently planned and cancel the Request for Proposals;
  2.  Meet with the personnel who operate and have a great deal of knowledge about the plants, and with them, develop a plan to meet the goals of improving the Government of Canada’s environmental performance, reducing the costs of heating and cooling operations, and increasing safety and reliability that ensures that these assets, and their maintenance and operation, stay completely in the public sector;
  3. After developing this plan, reissue a revised Request for Proposals as a Design and Build plan only.



October 12, 2018