Letter to the Parliamentary Secretary to the PSPC Minister about Open Offices

February 28, 2019

Mr. Steven MacKinnon    
Member of Parliament for Gatineau
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. MacKinnon,

I am writing on behalf of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the bargaining agent that represents some 60,000 professionals across Canada’s public sector, most of whom are employed by the federal government.

I would first like to thank you for having taken the time to meet with our representatives on February 6, 2019, during the Institute’s Day of Action on the Hill. A number of issues of great interest to my members were discussed at the time, including the upcoming government-wide conversion of traditional work areas into open office spaces.

My colleagues and I are particularly concerned that this critical issue has not received sufficient attention on the part the senior leadership at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the Department leading this initiative, and that it has not been the object of meaningful consultation with the government’s bargaining agents.

I appreciate that once you were made aware of our concerns, you committed the Department to consult with us. This is a significant development, as we have been trying for some time to engage in meaningful consultation with the Employer on this issue, both through its line-level representatives and through the National Joint Council’s System-Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety (SWOHS). Regretfully, we have not found PSPC, or other government Departments, particularly forthcoming with information on the roll-out of the GC Workplace project.

This lack of information and consultation is of great concern to the Institute, as I believe that PSPC’s plans call for GC Workplace to become the official fit-up standard of the government of Canada as of March 31, 2019. Unfortunately, our experience attempting to discuss this matter with the government has been less than encouraging:

1)    SWOHS meetings have been cancelled twice (December 2018 and January 2019). In these meetings, PSPC was supposed to provide us with the results of pilot workplaces and surveys. This information has not yet been shared.

2)    Even requests for basic information, such as where the government plans to roll out GC Workplace, have gone unanswered by PSPC.

3)    There have been no formal discussions allowing us to bring forward our concerns about GC Workplace. While there have been occasional instances of involving our members in some Departments, GC Workplace is a significant redesign of the public sector workplace that will have an impact on federal employees for at least the next 20 years. It is vital that unions be appropriately consulted and involved in designing the new fit- up standard.

Furthermore, there are a number of problems with GC Workplace and its related tools that will cause significant problems throughout the public service if they are implemented without being properly addressed:

1.    The approach toward Ergonomics is unsatisfactory.

2.    Guidance provided to Departments on implementing GC workplace standards is inadequate and does not take into account known problems with open offices or the role that labour-management cooperation can play in addressing these problems.

3.    There is no monitoring system for tracking the impacts on affected employees of departmental moves to the GC Workplace standard.

For these reasons, I strongly urge you to delay the proposed GC Workplace implementation date (March 31, 2019) until such time as proper consultation has taken place, all information about the project shared with PIPSC and other bargaining agents, and remedial action taken to correct its deficiencies.

The Institute has conducted in-depth research into the issue of open offices which I would be pleased to share with you. I have asked my staff to communicate with your office so that we can set-up a mutually convenient date and time to go over how we can work together to improve the GC Workplace program. I look forward to our discussion.

Debi Daviau President
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Cc:    Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Works & Government Services Sonia Powell, Director General, Public Services & Procurement Canada

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