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Staffing Industry Myths the Press Perpetuate

Once again the Ottawa press is full of stories about the staffing industry.  The Public Service Commission released a report one more time questioning the use of temporary help in the government.  This, as always, gathers a whole bunch of comments from people who know even less about our industry than the authors of this report and the author of the Citizen article.

In April this year, in response to an Ottawa Citizen article I wrote a blog entry called Canada’s Federal Government and the Temp Industry.   I think that blog entry accurately represents my views on this subject.

Today I will focus on the issue of  increased government spending on temporary help … and the fact that the report seems to think that this is a bad thing!  The dollars spent seem huge but in reality it is a very small percentage of the cost of the  government’s payroll budget, which would be consistent with the private sector use of staff augmentation (the flexible workforce).

I would also argue that in uncertain times decisions become harder, and flexibility more important, so the use of a flexible work arrangement suits the government under these conditions;

  • we have just been through one of the worst recessions in history;

  • we have had a minority government for as long as I can remember;

  • the Federal Government have had several “scandals” to deal with over recent years;

  • there have been some very high profile “so called failed projects” in recent time;

  • there have been and continue to be procurement reviews, procurement reforms and auditor general reports that put incredible pressure on the average public servant.

Public servants are expected to implement policy, meet their departments mandate, support ministerial directives in a changing world and with those kinds of pressures on them.  I say give the public servants a break, let them make business decisions that allow them to move their agendas forward and don’t hamstring them with bureaucracy that doesn’t work!  So what if they bring in a temp to do work that could be done by an employee … if the PSC could find and hire the employee in time to get the work done I’m pretty sure that’s what would happen.  Have you tried to get a Public service job lately, or as a public service manager have you tried to hire someone?  How long would you say that process took?

 I said it in my previous article … the staffing industry provides a much needed service at incredible value.

What is more important to the Public Service Commission is that public servants are “getting it in the neck” from every quarter, and believe it or not, making this tool (a flexible staffing capability) more difficult to use will just make life that much more difficult for public servants. 

Very often something needs to happen fast and the “full time hiring process” is not fast enough. There is nothing wrong with the use of temps by the Federal Government particularly in these trying times. There is however everything wrong with the process of government full time hiring, but I’m guessing the PSC wouldn’t want that to be the subject of scrutiny by the Ottawa press corp.