Submission to the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force
September 22, 2021
Introduction – an issue of great significance to our members
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is the bargaining agent for some 60,000 public service professionals across the country, the majority of whom are employed by the federal government. The Institute appreciates this opportunity to participate in this important discussion - this is a matter of significant importance to our members.
PIPSC has highlighted the impact of biases and barriers on the selection and promotion of candidates from equity-seeking groups (EE) in the federal public service on a number of occasions in the past. For example:
- We met with senior Treasury Board officials in 2015-16 soon after the Government of Canada expressed openness to address persistent gaps in its staffing processes, and actively participated in the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, whose final report was published in December 2017. This document, available online on the Treasury Board website, would be a valuable resource for your Task Force. It included some 44 recommendations on developing a framework and action plan for diversity and inclusion in Canada’s public service.
- In 2019, we outlined our concerns to Public Service Commission (PSC) President Patrick Borbey about the results of the Employment Equity Promotion Rate Study published by his organization in May of that year. Overall, the study demonstrates that while some progress has been made on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the public service, critical gaps remain in the experiences of equity-seeking groups in specific sectors, in particular women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities in the scientific and professional categories.
- In late January 2021, we participated in a National Joint Council Employment Equity Committee consultation on this issue. There were multiple unions present, as well as representatives from the Public Service Commission, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, the Privy Council Office and the Centre on Diversity and Inclusion. We were assured this would be the first of several consultations.
- In May 2021, PIPSC President Debi Daviau appeared before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs to discuss proposed changes to certain elements of Bill C-30 (Budget Implementation Act 2021) aimed at eliminating the barriers that affect equity-seeking groups in the federal public service. While these represent an improvement on existing legislation, they are only a small part of what needs to be done to address the concerns raised by bargaining agents.
Our ongoing work on this issue reflects its tremendous importance to our members. Racism, discrimination, Islampohobia and a lack of timely and effective action are nothing new to many federal public service employees. A long-standing history of alienation among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) public servants needs to be recognized and addressed.
Concerns over staffing processes in Canada’s public service
An Institute survey of its members demonstrates that:
- They do not have a lot of confidence in federal staffing processes.
- There’s a fear of retaliation when candidates complain about staffing;
- The recourse mechanism is weak;
- Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board recommendations have no effect on departmental practices;
- There’s no means of monitoring the training of Delegated Heads;
- Human Resources advisors don’t provide any kind of checks & balances and almost always take Management’s side.
- The delegation of staffing authority from the Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission to local managers has played a key role in creating the barriers to fairness, diversity and inclusion our racialized members encounter today.
- Non-advertised processes have dramatically increased from 29% of appointments in 2016 to 60% in 2020;
- There is an inherent lack of transparency or fairness around why a non-advertised process is being used;
- Because of the demographics and biases of hiring managers, non-advertised processes only add to the exclusion of equity-seeking groups;
- The most common response a complainant receives from a hiring manager is “I can do whatever I want”. There is no sound rationale presented, any openness to addressing why their candidacy cannot be considered, no oversight or accountability.
- The “right fit” is often used to exclude better qualified candidates belonging to marginalized communities, rather than its original purpose of increasing representation.
- The Statement of Merit Criteria (SoMC) is adapted to narrow the field and favour a preferred candidate.
- Areas of Selection have no real relevance; they often bear little relation to the actual posted requirements, which are adapted to the narrow sector or branch.
- Acting appointments are made and extended without any rationale through non-advertised processes.
- Managers either select a favorite candidate with the advantage of experience who is eventually named to the position;
- Or they appoint one or a series of candidates in acting positions for a time and then deny them a permanent appointment on questionable grounds. They often even expect these employees to train the “winner”.
- In some workplaces, privacy concerns are sometimes used to prevent the disclosure of salary information.
- This can lead to abuses for members of equity-seeking groups. Salary levels should be published.
- There is a lack of sponsorship programs, mentors or femtors for members of equity-seeking groups.
- No processes or expertise are in place to ensure that SoMc, assessment tools, or interview skills are adapted to remove bias. Individuals are reluctant to identify their accommodation needs as they may be perceived to be lesser performers.
- Such biases significantly contribute to the low representation numbers identified in the 2019 PSC Survey.
- Bilingualism requirements are also an obstacle for many of our members, notably highly qualified Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French. Non-imperative staffing and the accompanying commitment by the Employer to provide meaningful training to qualified public servants has been almost totally eliminated, which has serious negative impacts on the careers of members of several Employment Equity Groups.
A - Establish representative (mixed) Selection Boards that include at least two Employment Equity groups plus women, and cross-regional staff/advisors.
B - Processes or programs that prioritize staffing/promotion/hiring (such as the Canadian Armed Forces spousal program) should not be present at the expense of EE programs.
C - "Flexibilities” (see “2” above) have resulted in a critical decrease in staffing accountability and transparency. The hands-off approach taken by the PSC, including its non-participation in arbitrated matters and unwillingness to set the standards needed to meet the Act’s values suggests some reluctance on the Commission’s part to take on its oversight role. This must be corrected immediately.
D - “Black” should be identified as a separate equity-seeking group.
E - The word “Aboriginal” should be replaced by “Indigenous”.
F - It should be recognized that “Visible Minorities” is a broad group of multiple ethnicities who face different challenges. Statistics Canada and TBS already compile information on sub-groups (Black; Chinese; South Asian/East Indian; West Asian/North African/Arab; South Asian; Non-white Latin American; Filippino; Korean; Japanese), which should be recognized and tracked.
G - TBS tracks representation by Work Force Availability (WFA), which is not covered by the current Employment Equity Act. WFA has significant negative impacts on members of Visible Minorities. While the WFA for the three Employment Equity Groups is comparable with Canadian demographics, the WFA for Visible Minorities is over 10 percentage points less than their representation (2016 census 22.3% minus WFA 11.3% = 10.0). The Act should define how WFA is calculated so that Visible Minorities are at par with other EE groups.
H - LGBTQ2SI+ should be added as an equity-seeking group.
I - Designated groups should be defined in a similar fashion as in the new employee self-identification form.
J - The concept of Intersectionality should be included in the EEA as a framework to help analyse the subgroups.
K - Part I of the EEA should include the obligation for the Employer to create EE committees where the representatives hold powers similar to those in an Occupational Health and Safety committee as per Part II of the Canadian Labour Code. This would only pertain to employment equity consultation, processes and policies in the workplace.
L - Employment Equity plans need an accountability framework suggested under the Act itself.
M - The self-assessment of employers outlined in Sections 12 and 13 lacks objectivity and accountability. The subjective nature of how employers monitor their own plans should be revised.
N - In Section 15, the meaning of the words “Consult” and “Collaboration” need to be defined. Past experience shows that these words are interpreted differently by the Employer and Bargaining Agents.
O - The content of the report listed under Section 21 should include disaggregated data, for example, sub-groups and intersectional data, to encourage a better picture of the state of Employment Equity in the federal public service.
The representation of equity-seeking groups in the federal workplace cannot improve in the current context. Decisive and immediate action must be taken to finally create a federal workplace that reflects the people of Canada and their values. The federal government must move away from “quick fixes” and address this critical issue once and for all.
Professional Institute representatives are available to consult with the Task Force and help develop effective solutions to these problems in the months ahead. Please note that we are in the process of preparing a second submission that will exemplify many of our racialized members’ staffing and employment equity experiences in federal service.
We thank you for this opportunity to provide the Task Force with our views on this matter.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
(613) 794-9369 (cell)