Friday, November 21, 2014

Setting the record straight - What really happened versus the partial picture.

Dave Bulmer recently sent an email out that held an assertion that was not entirely accurate so I would like to set the record straight. He claimed that he had played a “lead role” in crafting a motion that was passed unanimously at the October 2014 Board meeting wherein the Association has committed to working with OPSEU on campaigns aimed at repatriating IT (and other public sector) work to the civil service."

For the record I would like to state that the motion in question came as a result of a vigorous discussion between the President and me at the October board meeting.  I took issue with the President only inviting the Executive members to attend the recent OPSEU MPP Day and not include any representatives from the IT community. As the one of the few Board members, (along with President Gannage and Vice President Pardaens) who has any expertise in or personal familiarity with the fee for service and privatization issues, I should have been included. (See my blog post of March 7, 2014). Since the focus of this OPSEU MPP day was information technology, Smokey Thomas as the host, brought sixteen OPSEU represented information technology professionals. It was his party of course.

The motion that Dave mentions in his email to delegates was the result of a combined effort of several board members including Sally Pardaens, Gary Gannage, Theresa Anderson-Butcher, Dave Bulmer, and myself.  We all had a hand in crafting the final version of the motion.  At the meeting I wrote down the actual completed motion.  The wording of the motion itself can be confirmed with the Secretary of the Association.

The motion states;

AMAPCEO will continue to work with OPSEU and others to study and reduce the potential impact of privatization and/or outsourcing/insourcing (e.g. fee for service) of the work of OPS employees.  Included in these efforts will be a communications strategy to inform stakeholders (e.g. government, employer representatives, OPS employees and the public) of the negative impact of these approaches to the delivery of public services.  This initiative will also focus on outsourcing/insourcing of work such as; IT, Health Care Services, Environmental Services, Mediation/Arbitration Services, etc.

The motion itself was moved by Gary Gannage, seconded by Sally Pardaens, and was passed unanimously by the Board.

The motion as you can read never included the words ‘repatriating IT (and other public sector) work to the civil service.’ I suppose one may conclude that that may be an end result at some point in the future if this motion is successfully executed.

However, going back to the February Board meeting Resolution 21 (Fee for Service Consultants Sunshine List) was brought up for discussion.  At that meeting Mr. Bulmer had the opportunity to support the objective of the resolution but he did not. The President stated empathically at the meeting that AMAPCEO is not capable of gathering that information and has no control over it, so no further action was taken.  I objected and pointed to a number of possible sources, but to no avail. In the meantime OPSEU has gone ahead and begun the process of gathering and publishing information on fee for service and the privatization of services offered by the OPS in an effort to protect its members.

Fast forward to the May 2014 Board meeting, I once again raised the issue of the employer’s use of Fee For Service, causing a motion to be raised by Gary Gannage and seconded by myself affirming that AMAPCEO should continue to draw attention to the issues of the use of Fee for Service consultants, outsourcing and privatization, including supporting the organized OPSEU campaign related to the use of consultants.  At that point in time Mr. Bulmer could have stepped up and taken the lead on this issue but didn’t. He did however,vote in favour of the motion.

But I digress, back to the OPSEU MPP Day. At that event Ms. Pardaens did use that opportunity to speak with Catherine Fife (NDP Finance Critic) and Vic Fedeli (PC Leader Candidate) about the Fee for Service and the Privatization issues.  She suggested that they look at the direction some of the pioneers of privatization like General Motors have taken.  General Motors for example, after much pain realized that outsourcing their IT wasn't working.  They ended up changing their business model and are in the process of hiring up to 10,00 new workers to replace those jobs that had been outsourced.  Both Ms. Fife and Mr. Fedeli were keening interested in what she shared.

More recently in a note to the delegates and members most likely to be impacted by the steady growth in of private consultants Sally Pardaens wrote of the active effort both she and I are taking to bring this issue in front of those in power with the influence to create positive change.  We are currently working on a research/briefing paper that besides looking at business trends will also a review of a number of policy papers written by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the work done by NUPGE.

Some have said I am a one trick pony with a single item agenda.  To them I would say that given a similar situation where members’ rights and welfare and their jobs need to be protected I would prosecute that issue with the same vigor and energy that I have shown for these two issues. 

In closing I will say if anyone can legitimately claim to taking a lead on the issue of increasing use of fee for service consultants and privatization of services affecting AMAPCEO represented members it would be Sally Pardaens and I. 

United we are strong.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Activist Recruitment and Retention– It’ Not A Numbers Game

In a second series Theresa Anderson-Butcher lays out her thoughts on recruiting and retaining Activists.

Thank you again James for allowing me to post on your blog on another subject of mutual interest – activist recruitment and retention.

During my first full term on the Board in 2010-2011 there was a lot of discussion around succession planning and engagement within the activist base. The discussion culminated at the 2011 Board Retreat where I volunteered to put on paper for discussion, my idea of what that would entail. The following is what I proposed to the board.

Activist Succession/Engagement Cycle

I was not on the Board of Directors in 2012 so the responsibility to carry this concept forward was given to another Board member.

As you see from the above diagram, in my opinion, a succession program requires significant planning and coordination as well as the commitment of sufficient resources.  Only then can we hope to ensure that activists are supported, developed and ultimately choose to progress in their roles.  Without such supports, we cannot hope to guarantee the success of our activists or their continued and hopefully progressive involvement in the Association.

Because volunteering in the Association often requires a significant commitment of personal time, I have always been up-front about the responsibilities of the role for which I have encouraged members to self-nominate. Never have I nominated any member for an activist role without first speaking with them, explaining the roles and responsibilities of the position and gaining their commitment to accept the nomination.

Over the last seven years I have tried to mentor at least one person every year in an attempt to draw them into the organization and hopefully engage them to the level where they decide to continue on their own. It is my hope that they too would continue to develop others in the same way I mentored them.  I have been successful in my efforts and I can say with confidence that those I have mentored continue to be active.

Not everyone recruits new activists in the same way.  There has been significant frustration on the part of the activists and the Association because many of our volunteers have come to their roles as a result of being nominated out-of-the-blue, and without their knowledge, by a member of a governance body. For example, I have often heard that delegates and committee members felt flattered when contacted by staff to confirm their nomination and often accepted the nomination without a full understanding of what the role entailed.

In some cases, members elected this way are quite successful in their new role and in others; they found the responsibilities too time-consuming or not what they thought the role would be and had to withdraw.  This put an added burden on the Elections and Credentials Committee and staff to initiate the process to post and fill the vacancy. It also frustrates the existing activist base because they have to continue the responsibilities of the committee without a full complement of volunteers. This places an additional burden on the volunteer time and potentially, the AMAPCEO financial resources if paid leave needs to be increased in order for the committee to meet its performance objectives.

Perhaps if we publicly post on the AMAPCEO website a .pdf of the completed nomination forms as soon as they are received (and determined in order by the Elections and Credentials Committee) the nominee will be more inclined to reflect upon the significance of the responsibilities that they will be assuming should they be successfully elected. Public posting is a way of achieving transparency in the elections process.

AMAPCEO Constitution Article 55.8 Nominations received by the committee [Elections and Credentials Committee] shall not be confidential at any time, and any candidate shall be free to withdraw in favour of another.

By-law 1, Article 15. The nominations shall not be confidential at any time and candidates shall be permitted to withdraw their nominations at any time up to the election.

When members are nominated for volunteer roles without their initial consent, it is equal to a shotgun approach to recruitment.  My approach, described earlier, is more defined and includes on-going support, education and feedback so that the member has a greater chance of success in their role and may then choose to expand their involvement into other roles. This is also the basis of the above diagram as it is part and parcel of a larger development process.

Activist development and member engagement takes work -- a lot of work. This was most recently demonstrated by they current Vice-President, Sally Pardaens, in her role coordinating the mobilization activities for this round of OPS bargaining. Intensive planning and coordination was required to ensure that members were engaged over a significant length of time.

We need to continue to engage members from the mobilization activities to draw them into suitable, continuing roles so that we can sustain interest at a broader level. Sustained interest ensures that members are aware of the regular cycle of AMAPCEO’s activities and are able to participate fully in those activities.  For example, on-going communication would hopefully keep members engaged to the level where they understand the reason why we are calling for nominations and the purpose of the committee or governance role for which we are recruiting. 

Perhaps, this will lead to greater interest and more self-nominations being submitted. To go further, maybe we will receive an increased level of voter turnout – at least at the chapter level.

The above diagram is my vision of how I see activist recruitment and development unfolding in the Association and how we can move towards attracting a greater level of involvement and volunteer commitment from our members.

As I mentioned earlier, the diagram had been shared with the Board in 2011 and given to another Board member for follow through.  I am not saying my idea is the best, put I have faith in its ability to create a culture of sustained engagement.

If you agree with the concept, please re-elect me as Director so I can continue to champion this concept and help us move closer to a member-driven Association. You should also re-elect James Dawson, who fully supports building and creating more opportunities for meaningful member engagement.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I no longer ....

I found this quote by author Jose Micard Teixeira and thought it stands very much on its own as a blog post .... it sums up well where I am at now that I have more days behind me than I have in front of me ...

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.

I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist any more with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”

- José Micard Teixeira

Obviously if I believe in these statements which I do, I am not a politician.  I am a person who wants the best for people and has a deep desire to get on with it.  Why waste the time I have doing anything else?

All the best

Friday, November 14, 2014

Guest blogger AMAPCEO Director Theresa Anderson Butcher: Engaging the Membership An Argument for Adequate Resourcing of the Chapter Executives Part 2 of 2

This is a continuation of Theresa Anderson-Butchers blog post on Membership Engagement.  You can read part 1 here

Moving Forward – How to Address the Gaps

How many of you saw benefit last year with the resources we allocated to mobilization? Was there better engagement of our members? Did we get value for those expenditures? Did our members provide positive feedback on our efforts and those of staff?

Do you believe, as I do, that maintaining a higher level of funding and providing more leave to Chapter Executives to engage and educate members would reap a positive benefit?

Let’s look at this more practically. I am going to make some assumptions as follows:

1.     AMAPCEO staff is responsible for the preparation of all training and communications materials.
2.     Each chapter has full access to a teleconference line to conduct Chapter Executive meetings.
3.     Leave time for chapter business can be allocated to any members of the Chapter Executive Committee.
4.     Leave time can be requested on a more flexible schedule based on sufficient notice to the employer.
5.     The Chapter Executive puts together an annual plan for outreach and member engagement. The plan can be template and then adapted for individual chapter needs.

Regardless of chapter size, number of members or geography, both time and resources will be required for appropriate outreach. For example, a regional chapter represents a smaller population, but covers a larger geography; a ministry chapter represents a larger population over a smaller geography. Are the costs the same to engage members equally? I would say that they’re close but spent on different items. For example, higher refreshment/meeting room costs for ministry chapters, and higher travel and teleconference/videoconference costs for regional chapters.

If we can allocate leave time to Chapter Executives, the travel time for regional chapters could be significantly reduced allowing Executive members closest to the membership to engage as opposed to having the Chapter Chair travel longer distances. This would be the same for ministry chapters as well.

It takes time and resources to build and engaged membership. We have four years before the next OPS collective agreement is negotiated. This is the largest population of members and we need to use the time between now and then to build engagement and a sense of community within the membership. We need to provide the resources to do so.

If you truly want an engaged membership and if you truly want to be supported by the Association so you can personally more actively engage, then I ask you to vote for those candidates who are committed to giving you the resources we need to make sure every member, if they choose to become more active in the Association, is able to meaningfully engage regardless of their geographic location, family status or accommodation needs.

We cannot allow the continuance of systemic barriers that prevent members from engaging with each other or participating in the leadership of the Association should they choose.

If this is a concept you would like to see explored, built upon and implemented, please vote for candidates like James Dawson, Dianne Colville and Theresa Anderson-Butcher who are committed to making this happen.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest blogger AMAPCEO Director Theresa Anderson Butcher: Engaging the Membership An Argument for Adequate Resourcing of the Chapter Executives

Part 1 of 2

Thank you James for allowing me space on your blog to talk about an issue of mutual interest.

Like you, I too am looking forward to this year’s Annual Delegates’ Conference more than ever. This is going to be the year of change and the decisions we make this year will determine our future direction.

Those of you who have attended the last five conferences may recall that I am a champion of change in the way AMAPCEO engages our members and our activists. I believe that we need to provide adequate resources to our Chapter Executives so that they can engage our members more meaningfully at the local level. We cannot use a cookie-cutter approach to member engagement as our chapters may have unique needs in how they reach out to their membership. This uniqueness can be in demographic composition, geographic disbursement, number of ministries represented, BPS inclusion and building location and accessibility.  Regardless of the above, the chapter executive should be the team that sets its engagement plan and receives the support of the leadership and staff to execute the plan.

Engaging the Chapter Executive is troublesome given that the AMAPCEO Constitution only allows leave for Chapter Chairs to perform his/her duties. The leave includes on half-day every three weeks, or approximately 17 half days per year.

The duties of a Chapter Chair are two-fold: governance, as a voting member of Provincial Council; and member engagement with responsibilities to ensure that chapter members are informed of both issues of governance and issues around the application of the collective agreements that pertain to his/her members.

There are six regular Provincial Council meetings per year therefore; the governance responsibilities I would suggest occupy, at a minimum, six of the half-day leaves. Depending on the demands of the work schedule, many Chapter Chairs cannot download/print the materials until the weekend. If they plan to meet with their Executive, it would have to be in the day or two prior to the Council meeting.

Chapter Executive meetings are often held over lunch hour.  In regional chapters or chapters with disbursed Executive membership, the meeting is often by teleconference call. AMAPCEO does not have a dedicated teleconference line for Chapters to use to perform this duty.

So you can see, without even going into the member engagement responsibilities, much of the leave and a significant amount of personal time could be occupied in the governance responsibilities.

Member engagement can mean different things to different people. For some members, a simple informative or welcoming email is sufficient engagement; for others, an opportunity for an in-person discussion is more fruitful.  Both approaches present challenges for Chapter Chairs, as they do not always have access to their member’s home contact data for correspondence or outreach, or are not physically located in the same building, or the same town for that matter.  How then do Chapter Chairs fulfill their obligations for member engagement and education?

The Constitution only allows for the Chapter Chair to have leave for chapter business. In order to ensure broader engagement, we need to make that leave accessible to other Chapter Executives. It takes more than one person to build a community and volunteers need to be given time to fulfill the expectations of their volunteer roles.  Outreach and engagement must be planned and properly executed. It is not an organic process; particularly in this day and age of teleworking and alternate work arrangements where people work varying hours and a lunch hour is no longer an hour in many circumstances.

In the 2015 budget, you will read on lines 29 and 30 that we have allocated $30,000 (0.33%) of our total expenses to cover the costs of all Chapter activities and the expenses for Board members to attend a chapter meeting for twenty-three chapters.

These are all the monies allocated for chapters to get together and build their community. I know that for many years, chapters have not had the time or capacity to get together because there isn’t sufficient leave time for activists to organize the events or meet with members during the day. We cannot expect huge engagement at the local level when we do not expend sufficient resources to allow for such engagement.  

Read the next instalment .....part 2 of 2

My Candidate Statement for AMAPCEO Director.

A few of you have asked if they could tweet about my statement.  I've recreated the statement here  so you can do just that.

 What I Believe

My Candidate Statement for the position of Director

I believe in creating and using policies that support the needs of the Association and its members and regularly reviewing them ensuring continuing relevance. I believe in constructive debate and examining issues from different perspectives in order to arrive at a more comprehensive and well thought out solution. I believe that the voicing of an opinion different from mine is not a personal criticism; merely another way of addressing an issue.  Without critical thinking we cannot hold each decision up to scrutiny, hold individuals accountable for their decisions or have a strong, resilient union. We all have the best interest of the Association and our members at heart. As long as we work together to protect the interests of the whole, we will create and maintain a dynamic and resilient union.

I will continue to champion positive change, transparency, accountability, and openness within AMAPCEO. These remain for me the essential qualities of good leadership; qualities that Delegates like you and the members you represent are demanding.  As your Director I will continue to be your voice as well as your eyes and ears on the Board of Directors – it is a partnership built on strength and trust between you and I.

During mobilisation we saw a stunning demonstration of what member engagement can do. It is my goal to work to create a leadership pipeline with other like-minded Directors to leverage that momentum and provide leadership development opportunities. I will draw on the leadership demonstrated by a large number of Activists who dedicated uncounted hours to ensure that the Employer not only heard but felt our resolve. The strength of our Association and its ability to withstand challenges is dependent on us creating and nurturing leaders from wherever they may be found.  I intend to find ways to give interested members the leadership opportunities within AMAPCEO that will strengthen our resilience and adaptability as an Association.

I promise to leave the Association much stronger then I found it once my second term is done.

During my second term as your Director I will collaborate with other Directors to build member engagement. I will pay particular attention to promoting your education as a Delegate and the members that you represent.  Thomas Jefferson wrote that “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens.” I firmly believe that applies equally to the governing of our Association, especially the oversight

During my conversations with members I find examples of how a lack of knowledge leads to uncompensated overtime, managers running rough shod over member rights to fair accommodation, and far too many other examples.  The need to know the Collective Agreement as well as our own Constitution has been virtually pounded into me by Theresa Anderson-Butcher, a dedicated, extremely capable, and knowledgeable veteran Director.  I am convinced that it in you, and the membership at large, lays the real security for our Association - the Association is not safe unless the membership at large is educated, active, and engaged.

For further dialogue on my beliefs and the stands that I have taken on other topics confronting AMAPCEO please contact me at or scan through the rest of my blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Day After The Vote Before

The federal general electoral turnout in Canada hit a high of 79.4% in March of 1958.  Since then the trend has been decidedly downward reaching a low of about 58.8% in October of 2008.  The turn out of membership to vote for the recent Collective Agreement is very likely south of 50%.  I am guessing based on my observations of mobilisation turnouts and my own unscientific polling, but I would challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

Who votes in the General Elections? The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on his website states that the lowest number of voters come from the 18-20 age group with a percent turn out of 35.6% with the highest turnout coming from the 65-74 age group with a percentage turnout of 68.4%.

What are the reasons behind the year over year declines, or the clear segmented turnout by age group?  There is a lot of research attempting to address this question and I won't burden you with the mountains of links I could give you here.  What is important is that there are people gathering this information, analysing this information, and proposing fact based theories as to the causes of the declining turn out.

As in any democratic country citizen engagement like membership engagement is an absolute necessity to a healthy and resilient country or organisation capable of withstanding the forces that would like to see its demise.

Yet if one was to ask the questions of AMAPCEO - why do we have such a lack of member engagement or why was the member turnout so low for a substantial agreement that will impact their lives and the lives of their families for years to come?  Our honest answer would be "I don't know" and our worst response would  be a shrug. Both amount to a shameful lack of insight into our membership. We just don't have the factual evidence to answer the questions.

We are clueless and will remain clueless until we start asking our membership the hard questions.  Only afterwards can be begin formulating and testing theories -- and courses of action that will increase engagement and ultimately turnout to mobilisation efforts and penultimately voter turnout.

If we don't take this opportunity so soon after the voting for the Collective Agreement we will loose the chance to ask vital and basic questions before the membership replaces their reasons for voting or not voting with the mundane trivialities of everyday living.

I'll also leave you with some additional information to mull over.  According to the Top OPS Workforce Facts as of June, 2014, 62% of overall new hires in the OPS are 34 years of age or younger.  According to the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada the age groups 34 years of age and younger only vote 37% of the time.  Is this a enduring characteristic of this cadre?  Will they hold to this character trait as they age and replace the older members? What does that mean for our long-term viability as an association?

In closing I would also challenge the reader to consider what it means if my earlier guestimate is true and less than 50% or less than 5554 of our 11,500 members felt strongly enough to cast a vote on such a critical issue.  Moreover, is it honest to say that the ratification vote resulted in a 96.6% YES vote or is it a white lie since not all the facts were revealed? I will just ask the questions and leave it to the reader to decide and act ...or not. 

But I feel that these questions and others must be asked and this sort of fundamental information that MUST be gathered, shared openly and discussed with the membership, and included in any strategic planning that will occur in the near future.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writing a note to your MPP - regardless of their party affiliation to protest the Employer's Collective Agreement proposals

Letter writing campaigns can be remarkably successful.  AMAPCEO has requested that its membership write a letter to their MPP to let them know that we consider their latest negotiation tactics and proposal to be unsatisfactory and mean spirited. 

AMAPCEO has a suggested letter template located on the website that members can use as the basis of a letter to their MPP. AMAPCEO is also encouraging members to personalise their MPP letters.  During mass campaigns, this helps letters to stand out.

For example, I'm providing a letter written by AMAPCEO activist Maryanna Lewyckyj, a former journalist (see letter below). I have taken the liberty of posting Maryanna's letter.  The letter has been circulated amongst a small group of people as an alternative to the one posted on the AMAPCEO website. Her letter includes some background information to support AMAPCEO's request for a fair deal. 

Whatever approach you take, the important thing is for people to get involved and let their MPP know how they feel.  I have included a link to each MPP's contact details that you will find useful.  Click Here.

As a constituent and public servant, I’m writing to you to draw your attention to a situation which former Secretary of Cabinet Tony Dean has described as “a recipe for low morale – just at the time we want public servants to stand tall and be their best.”

It concerns ongoing negotiations for the 11,000-plus members of AMAPCEO, the second-largest bargaining agent in the Ontario Public Service. AMAPCEO members have already made key sacrifices to meet fiscal restraint goals:
  • In the last contract, AMAPCEO fixed-term contract workers had fewer vacation days than the minimum entitlement under the Employment Standards Act.
  • The 2013 Ontario budget noted the agreement included a two-year wage freeze and the restructuring of merit pay, short-term sickness benefits and time-off provisions, which would result in cost avoidance of $24.6 million in 2012-13 and $30.4 million 2013-14.
The Liberal government has boasted that Ontario ranks lowest among all provinces in terms of public sector employees per capital (6.5 public sector employees per 1,000 people in 2012, compared to a national average of 9.7 employees per 1,000 people).

Despite this, the government is proposing drastic changes for AMAPCEO workers including:
  •  Freezing pay: Through a new incentive pay structure where 60% of AMAPCEO workers (even those deemed fully effective) would not receive incentive pay. It would be possible for a fully effective employee to work an entire career without reaching the maximum of his/her salary range.
  •  Massive healthcare cuts: Replacing paramedical coverage, currently $1,200 per family member for most services (physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage, etc.) with a $600 Health Care Spending Account for all family members for all services. 
  • Forced retirement: Long-Term Income Protection benefits would cease the moment a recipient is eligible for an unreduced pension (instead of age 65). Forced retirement for those on LTIP means that workers must retire, even if they were expecting to fully recover and return to work.
Meanwhile, it’s estimated Ontario is missing out on more than $18 billion a year in revenues because of tax cuts dating from 1995 onwards. A good chunk of the tax cut largesse isn’t being pumped back into the economy. In 2012, former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney criticized Canada businesses for amassing a cash hoard of $526 billion of ‘dead money’ that wasn’t being invested productively or returned to shareholders. Since 2012 that cash hoard has continued to balloon. 

A recent International Monetary Fund report looked at the amount of ‘dead money’ held by non-financial firms, and found corporate Canada is leading the G7. The cash stash in Canada has almost doubled between the mid-1990s and 2012. At $626 billion, the amount exceeds the national debt. Ontario must look at ways to get corporate Canada to loosen its purse strings and stimulate the economy. Attacking public servants won’t achieve this goal. 

Running Canada’s biggest province requires a lot of brainpower, dedication and attention to detail. There’s a fine line between targeting savings and shooting yourself in the foot. Please ask the government to seek a fair deal with AMAPCEO workers and other civil servants rather than ripping apart the fabric of the Ontario Public Service benefits safety net. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Labour shortage…. or is it just an unwillingness to pay the market rate?

During the negotiations leading up to the 2012 Collective Agreement AMAPCEO President, Gary Gannage told us during a town-hall that the Employer told the bargaining team that “Because of the down-sizing of RIM and other places we are going to be able to get IT folks at a dime a dozen. That’s what they said. I don’t agree with it, but that is what they said. Now that being said, there is no forecast that says that people will be red-circled for five years.  I don’t know how anyone gets that impression.  It is possible that there could be constrained for that period of time.  That being said we are back at bargaining in two years time and we’ll have to find out where things are going to lay at that point.”

Well that point is now.  RIM is still here, albeit a slimmer version, as are most ‘other places’.  Has anything really changed?  Despite the Employer’s disingenuous assertion IT folks are a dime a dozen IT folks are not a dime a dozen, in fact it is quite the opposite. While it may seem intuitive that the rapid growth of both consumer and business technology would make Information and Communications Technology (ICT) one of the most desirable fields for new job-market entrants, Industry Canada data shows that in 2011 the year before the last agreement was signed that the number of ICT workers as a percentage of the total workforce declined from 3.6% in 2002 to 3.3%.  Another research study released 2011 this time by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) projected an across-the-board increase in demand of 106,000 IT workers in Canada (or about 19%) between 2011 and 2016 with few new market entrants available to fill them.

The Canadian Business Education Partnership, a not-for-profit organization that advocates on key issues impacting career exploration and workforce development cites a 2011 study undertaken by them that indicates Canada will be confronting a shortage of information and communications technology labour over the next five years. The CBEP says that in Ontario, about 51,000 information and communication technologies jobs will need to be filled in the next five years.  Some dime.  Some dozen.

Moreover, in a press release dated October 28th, 2013, the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) that the reality is that while the ICT industry’s unemployment rate is less than 3% their research shows that over 100,000 critical ICT jobs will need to be filled by 2016.  The report’s author John O’Grady of Prism Economics and Analysis, says too that declining enrolment in post-secondary programs and increased difficulty bringing temporary skilled workers to Canada, those employees will be difficult to find. 
 So now the Employer’s argument that IT folks are a dime a dozen is contradicted by both Industry Canada and empirical studies conducted by industry organisations, yet our Employer continues to pare down the number of internal IT positions. One really has to begin to wonder why.  Clearly the evidence would point towards an argument that IT folks are indeed a scarce resource that should be encouraged to stay within government.
But moving on, the shortage of skilled ICT professionals has not been lost on people such as Chris Alexander, Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who in September of 2013 while speaking to attendees at a National Bank of Canada event conveyed his concerns about Canada’s labour shortage.  Alexander pressed business owners to communicate with the government and help raise awareness for the specific skills needed to sustain this country’s labour force.  “Skill shortages are literally on our doorsteps,” he warned. “Let’s not forget how competitive this [immigration] market is … the fierce competition for the most competent people.”  Yet our Employer denies that the reality of the skills shortage in the ICT sector and implies that there is a glut of talented ICT people in the market place - at least to us but to the voting public they are a little less disingenuous and recognize the need and admit to shortages.

As recently as February 19th our own Immigration and Citizenship Minister Michael Coteau said Ontario could set targets for attracting more skilled immigrants.  Couteau then goes on to say the changes would help Ontario lure experts in fields like information technology, where there are shortages, and run a larger program than the one that now brings 100,000 new residents annually.  “We’ve seen skilled immigrants choosing other jurisdictions and other provinces in North America because there are opportunities.” I guess that would happen when you chose not to pay them a fair market salary.

Stepping back two years, in a September 11, 2012 article in the Financial Post, Sharif  Faisal, chief economist for the ICTC  writes “All Employers are being very cautious about giving [pay] raises and holding onto their cash, but that’s not the case for ICT professionals,” “They’re constantly getting raises. They’re 3% higher [today] than what they were getting in January.”  Except of course where the salaries are frozen and if the Employer has their way will remain frozen for another four years.

This all makes me wonder what the real end game is. Is it simply cost cutting?  After all IT folks are amongst the highest paid in the provincial government and therefore an obvious target if you are a bean counter who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Or does this behavior over the last few years point to another scenario?  Perhaps one where the object is for government to get out of the business of employing full time IT folks with the endgame being to hand over the entire operation to third parties such as IBM, HP, or some other large IT outsourcer who will in turn outsource the work to a poorly paid, well educated, workforce in India.  Or is it simply short-sightedness brought on by a looming debt crisis caused on by spend thrift politicians out to garner votes at any cost.

If you are particularly interested in more important discussion about the shortage of skilled information and communication technology (ICT) workers in Canada (Industry Canada (2010) Improving Canada's Digital Advantage; IBM (2012) Fast Track to the Future; and Information and Communications Technology Council (2011), Outlook for Human Resources in the ICT Labour Market, 2011-2016).

Friday, March 7, 2014

Create a Sunshine List for Private Contractors working within the OPS

In a recent Toronto Star Article OPSEU President Smokey Thomas has voiced an idea that many of us with the OPS IT community have been trying to be made heard. The idea is that a equivalent Sunshine List be created for Fee for Service consultants.  The Toronto Star article quotes Smokey as saying that the legislation “doesn't go far enough” and the sunshine list of public servants earning $100,000 a year and up should be expanded to include private contractors working for governments.  Thank you Smokey for unknowingly supporting what many IT workers in AMAPCEO have been talking about. 

The most recent count that we have tells us that there were roughly 1800 Information Technology Fee for Service Consultants working within the OPS during this fiscal year. The projections are that there will be more Fee for Service Consultants hired in the new fiscal year as new business requirements result in new projects that require Information Technology to become reality.  

Lets look at what some Fee for Service Consultants can make using the daily rates set by the Government of Ontario.  I'll use IT Architects as the example because I am one and am most familiar with that group.  Lets annualise those rates over a fiscal year. It becomes readily apparent that the payments to Fee for Service Consultants are much higher than that paid to AMAPCEO represented employees for equivalent services.

Role Min Salary Avg Salary Max Salary Median
Application Architect 1  $      73,515  $     125,071  $     152,945  $     124,722
Application Architect 2  $     104,273  $     156,436  $     198,575  $     156,325
Application Architect 3  $     122,525  $     188,083  $     236,600  $     185,900
Business Architect 1  $      73,515  $     125,229  $     156,832  $     126,750
Business Architect 2  $     104,273  $     156,982  $     194,350  $     158,860
Business Architect 3  $     122,525  $     188,170  $     236,600  $     185,900
Data Architect/Modeller 1  $      73,515  $     120,443  $     152,945  $     118,300
Data Architect/Modeller 2  $      98,020  $     149,459  $     186,238  $     149,143
Data Architect/Modeller 3  $     122,525  $     180,764  $     228,150  $     179,732
Information Architect 1  $      73,515  $     122,949  $     158,860  $     122,525
Information Architect 2  $     104,273  $     153,974  $     194,350  $     152,100
Information Architect 3  $     122,525  $     185,152  $     236,600  $     185,900
Security Architect 1  $      73,515  $     128,132  $     160,550  $     126,750
Security Architect 2  $     104,273  $     161,147  $     202,800  $     160,550
Security Architect 3  $     147,030  $     193,618  $     245,050  $     194,350
Solutions Designer 1  $      73,515  $     113,087  $     147,030  $     114,920
Solutions Designer 2  $      94,978  $     140,910  $     183,872  $     139,425
Solutions Designer 3  $     114,920  $     166,054  $     214,630  $     167,141
Technical Architect 1  $      73,515  $     125,450  $     160,550  $     125,060
Technical Architect 2  $     104,273  $     155,440  $     194,350  $     155,903
Technical Architect 3  $     122,525  $     185,581  $     228,150  $     185,731

It is clear to see from here that almost all the Fee for Service Consultants make it to the Sunshine List if they are paid the minimum rate let alone the average salary.

Just for reference a new employee entering any of those positions will earn at most $99,600 while the Fee for Service person sitting in the next cubicle is making much much more -- without their salary being frozen.  At these pay rates the OPS unionised employee will beat out any Fee for Service Contractor if they were required to compete for work within the OPS.

So I say bring it on!  If the Wynne government wants to be transparent and accountable post the Fee for Service Sunshine List and let the Ontario Tax Payer know exactly how much they are paying for private contractors.  Let the Ontario Tax payer decide where they are getting value for money.