This week, PSAC National President Chris Aylward and CEIU National President Eddy Bourque wrote to Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen asking the government to reverse its decision to contract out 1-800-O-Canada. The Service Canada hotline handles communications with residents who have questions about Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, parental leave and several other important federal benefit programs. This work has just been contracted by the government to Gatestone, a private call centre, headquartered in the United States, that specializes in debt collections and has a reputation for poor working conditions.
Canadians relying on Service Canada are often going through major transitions in their lives. These are stressful periods for anyone – looking for new employment, taking the plunge into retirement, coping with a disability, or raising a new child. Couple these situations with the ongoing pandemic and economic instability, and it's clear that the government needs to provide clients with trained public service workers who understand their issues and can provide high-quality, consistent service to Canadians. Private American call centre workers don't have the training, the experience, or the access to Canada’s systems and the departments necessary to provide the service callers depend on.
Numerous reports have shown that privatization costs more, results in poor service and that governments always underestimate the risks involved should a corporation fail to meet its contractual obligations. PSAC-CEIU has requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss our demand that he cancel the contract and brings this work back into the public service.
As Canada looks towards a post-pandemic recovery plan, we also must consider that privatization increases poverty and economic disparity. Federal public sector jobs are strong and stable economic drivers and play a key role in jumpstarting Canada’s economy.