Letter from PIPSC President to Clerk of the Privy Council
July 24, 2018
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Privy Council Office
Room 1000, 85 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A3
Dear Mr Wernick,
I am writing to express my concerns over your recent comments regarding the firing of public servants. I want to convey how profoundly disappointed I am with your comments on a number of fronts.
To begin, treating employees fairly when they are accused of poor performance should never be seen as onerous. Public service employees are already held to a higher degree of scrutiny than most other workers, including reliability screenings and security clearances, which are renewed on a regular basis. Furthermore, media have recently reported a sharp rise in the number of public servants fired for misconduct. The number of public servants who lost their jobs for misconduct has risen 67 per cent from 2005-06. There has also been a 57 percent jump for those let go for incompetence or incapacity. I am deeply concerned that your characterization of the government’s termination process as “extremely difficult” is not only damaging to morale but inaccurate.
Your comments were particularly disappointing in light of increased levels of bullying, harassment and mental health issues experienced in the workplace. As I know you are aware, the overall level of harassment experienced within the federal public service remains almost unchanged, according to the latest results of the 2017 Public Service Employee Survey: 18% in 2017 compared to 19% in 2014. I know you share my concern, but want to clearly state that in light of these realities it is important that safeguards that ensure due process are maintained and enforced – not diminished.
Job security has always been a recruitment/retention factor within the federal public service. It is also key to ensuring that public servants feel able to speak out when they see wrong-doing. I would much rather see you, as the head of the public service, speak about the pressing need to strengthen whistle-blower legislation than lament the challenges of firing employees.
In the wake of the Phoenix pay crisis, it is no comfort to public service employees to hear from their Clerk that firing them is too difficult. At times like these, my members would prefer to see leadership and vision on how to move forward and ensure employees are paid correctly and on time. We need to hear from our leaders about what steps they are taking to mitigate the damage caused by the current Phoenix system and how we can work to build a new pay system using the knowledge and expertise of public servants. I hope that you will focus on these more important tasks going forward.
I believe that together we can chart a better path to ensure a healthy and productive workplace culture for all public servants. In order to achieve that we need to focus our efforts on building a new working pay system, strengthening whistle-blower protections and striving to end harassment and bullying in the workplace.
Thank you for your time and attention to this letter. I look forward to your response.