Privatization threatens employment equity efforts

A new report released by PSAC-UNDE documents why contracting out of civilian work by the Department of National Defence (DND) undermines critical employment equity efforts.

DND and Canada’s Armed Forces (CAF) have faced repeated charges of racism, sexism and harassment and assaults against women, racialized people, Indigenous people, and LGBTQ2+ people – both within the military and in the civilian workforce. Members of DND and CAF who have endured harassment, assault and discrimination in their workplace are now eligible to file a claim as part of the CAF/DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement.

While apologies, new policies and programs may help to set things right, effective change will not take hold if the Forces and the civilian workforce are not truly representative at all levels of people in Canada.  

The Parliament of Canada over the years has passed laws to ensure federal government employers give people in Canada fair access to government jobs, and that people in Canada receive service from a public sector workforce that is qualified, capable and representative. The Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) enshrines the principles of fairness, transparency, access, representativeness, and merit.  Similarly, the Employment Equity Act (EEA) sets as its objective:

...achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and, in the fulfilment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by giving effect to the principle that employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences. 

Also, the Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program require that all federally regulated businesses and all contractors with contracts over $1 million implement employment equity in their workplaces.

The obligations of are rendered meaningless, however, by DND’s ongoing outsourcing of federal public sector work. By using contract workers, temporary help agency workers who are not employed directly by DND, the Department is effectively contracting out of its obligations under the Public Service Employment Act. Also, the provisions of the Federal Contractors Program can be avoided by first establishing contracts at less than $1 million and then increasing the value through contract amendments.

However, employment equity audit results are not disclosed by the government, so it is impossible to tell whether the government is simply taking contractors at their word.  

PSAC’s analysis of contract amendments available on the Government of Canada’s Open Data set found that DND amended at least 824 contracts in the year 2016-2017.  Nowhere in the reporting is there a comprehensive tracking of the people who make up this substantial portion of the workforce. Given the frequent reports of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination on military bases, it is of paramount importance that all workers paid from Department budgets have the opportunities inherent in the Employment Equity Act and in the Public Service Employment Act.  The best way to do this is to ensure that they have one employer and only one employer– the Department of National Defence. This would give workers full rights under the Employment Equity Act and also place them in the appropriate DND bargaining units thereby giving them negotiated collective agreement rights as well.  DND must stop contracting out and must bring privatized work back into the public service.

(to read our full report on the impact or privatization on defence services, see: In the interest of safety and security: The case for ending the privatization of Department of National Defence services)


November 20, 2020