Policy recommendations

Stop outsourcing – building an open, effective and transparent public service

Government outsourcing, especially outsourcing IT personnel, is costing Canadians billions of dollars each year. From time to time, outsourcing may be necessary to augment staff compliments or bring in external skills and expertise.[1] But years of unchecked spending on outsourcing has created a shadow public service of consultants operating alongside the government workforce. This shadow public service plays by an entirely different set of rules: they are not hired based on merit, representation, fairness or transparency; they are not subject to budget restraints or hiring freezes; and they are not accountable to the Canadian public.[2] It’s time for a major shift in outsourcing policy in the federal public service.

PIPSC is a leader in the fight against government outsourcing. Our Computer Systems (CS) Group developed strong outsourcing language for their collective agreement. Although signed in 2017, government departments continue to outsource at an increasing pace. The government must step up, meet their commitments and create clear policies limiting the ease with which our members’ work is outsourced.

To protect our members, the government must step up and create clear policies on government outsourcing. We will be taking the following policy recommendations to ministers and government officials in 2020.

More limits on supply arrangements and standing offers for contractors

The role of the procurement system in delivering personnel resources needs to be reimagined. The procurement system should be used to meet legitimate short-term needs, not as a backchannel to staffing. Temporary help service contracts should be reduced from a maximum of 48 weeks to 24 weeks. Additionally, supply arrangement and standing offers for professional services should be reconsidered entirely.

Negotiate outsourcing language in collective agreements

The PIPSC CS group negotiated new provisions that restrict outsourcing IT work in their 2013-2017 collective agreement. The provisions require managers to “make a reasonable effort to use existing employees or hire new indeterminate or term employees as needed before contracting out [outsourcing] work [...].”[3] Unions representing workers in the federal government must continue to push for similar gains at the bargaining table.

Increased requirements for outsourcing

The federal government should adopt requirements for outsourcing similar to what is now required in the Ontario public service. AMAPCEO, a union representing professionals in Ontario, successfully lobbied the Government of Ontario to adopt new rules which require public sector managers to create a business case specifying the need to outsource before they can hire IT consultants. These rules should be included in the Treasury Board’s contracting policies.

Clearer guidelines on outsourcing

The Treasury Board and Public Services and Procurement Canada need to add specific clauses to the contracting policies that specify when outsourcing violates government staffing rules. There need to be clearer guidelines on when it is appropriate to outsource and better mechanisms to enforce compliance. It should be made explicit that outsourcing is the last resort for filling human resources and managers should have to prove that all other avenues have been exhausted before they can outsource staff.

Include CS outsourcing provisions in contracting policy

The Treasury Board should include the provisions on outsourcing found in the CS collective agreement in their government-wide contracting policies. All public service managers should have to make a reasonable effort to use existing employees and/or hire term or indeterminate employees before outsourcing.

Limits on contract extensions

The Treasury Board should include a limit on the number of extension options in contracts for consultants or contractors.

Require institutional knowledge transfer from contractors

All outsourcing contracts should include requirements to transfer the knowledge gained by contractors back to the public service. Knowledge transfer requirements would reduce institutional knowledge concentrating within private contractors. Requiring knowledge transfer would reduce the department’s reliance on contractors to perform services.





[1] According to the Treasury Board’s Outsourcing Policy (16.1.5) Managers can outsource for personnel if they need to fill in for a public servant during a temporary absence, to meet an unexpected fluctuation in workload, or to acquire special expertise not available within the public service. However, in the case of outsourcing IT work, managers, working with PIPSC CS members, must first make every reasonable effort to use existing employees or hire new indeterminate employees before outsourcing (Article 30.1 of the PIPSC CS Group collective agreement).

[2] David, McDonald. The Shadow Public Service. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 2011.

[3] PIPSC CS Group Collective Agreement (2014-2017). Article 30.01.