The military must be “operation ready” at all times. so when the COVID-19 pandemic started, 15 Wing — the Royal Canadian Air Force (CAF) Base at CFB Moose Jaw — went into a state of “minimum manning.” Most military personnel and civilians worked from home to stay healthy and ready to protect the rest of the country when called upon, as when the military was assigned to long-term care facilities in Quebec. Only core military functions were maintained.
In line with this, the Department of National Defense (DND) instructed contractors to limit work to “only essential core activities.” However, some private contractors ignored these directives and made their workers work regular hours, doing “busy work” not in their normal job description which puts employees, DND forces and civilians at risk.
DND told PSAC-UNDE that it “couldn’t tell the contractors how to manage” their employees. Only through intervention by senior elected officials — UNDE National President June Winger and Vice-President Mona Simcoe — and only when the deputy minister was brought into the situation, did contractors address the union’s concerns. But it’s still not enough. The union continues to fight for these workers’ rights as coronavirus cases dramatically increase once again.
PSAC represents 138 civilian workers at 15 Wing, 51 of whom work for DND, and another 87 who work for private contractors. Unlike many who work for private contractors on DND bases, these workers are fortunate to have union representation.
Privatization created two classes of workers – those who were protected by their employer, and those who felt disposable. Private interests have no place on Canada’s military bases.