Strategic Review: a sort of answer

Progress! When last I checked with Public Works, they couldn’t tell me anything about their Strategic Review cuts for the current year and the next two years “until we communicate these plans to stakeholders and employees.” On Monday they communicated some of their plans to employees. One of the plans is that there will be fewer employees. The employees’ union told the Globe, and it became a story. So I thought I’d ask for what they couldn’t tell me earlier.

I got an answer. That very evening, in fact; the delay in posting our correspondence is my delay, not PWGSC’s. Here’s their answer, verbatim:

• Strategic reviews are designed to ensure every Government program is achieving results for Canadians.
• Through this process, all programs must demonstrate that they:
-are effective and efficient;
-focus on core federal roles; and
-meet the needs of Canadians.
• Out of a population of over 14,000 employees, approximately 687 positions (or about 5%) will be eliminated across PWGSC over three years.  Fifty per cent of positions will be eliminated in Year 1 and the remaining eliminations will take place between Years 2 and 3.
• Given the vacancies that currently exist in the department, and our rate of attrition (8%), we anticipate that there will be job opportunities available within PWGSC and the public service for many affected employees.  Approximately 1,000 employees leave the department each year for retirement or to take other opportunities.
• PWGSC is implementing initiatives to meet our strategic review savings targets. These initiatives are contributing to the following objectives:
– Eliminating duplication and overlap across programs and services – the review highlighted functions that are no longer required or for which other more cost-effective measures could be used to achieve the same objective. This contributes to a more affordable public service.
– Enhancing efficiency of our operations through innovation and continuous improvement – finding ways to provide our programs and services more efficiently and finding innovative ways to deliver on our mandate. This includes modernization initiatives underway to improve services, in many cases through improved technology.
– Focusing on our core mandate and leveraging the expertise of the private sector – one of our key priorities is to provide opportunities for the private sector, particularly for small and medium enterprises. This means, in some cases, getting out of businesses that can be done by the private sector. By leveraging this expertise, our department will eliminate overhead costs, allow us to better focus on our core mandate, as well as support growth in the private sector.
• These initiatives will be implemented over the next three years using a phased approach. Many of our savings will come from initiatives that are part of our ongoing business priorities, and others will involve more fundamental changes to our department.

So. In English, they intend to cut 687 positions over three years, and re-hire a lot of these people in other places. As Colleague Coyne would hasten to point out, that’s not a large fraction of the total PWGSC workforce.

All I can point out is that it’ll be fun finding out what “more fundamental changes to our department” might entail; and that the government’s peel-the-Band-aid-off-slower communications strategy ensures I’ll probably find out the details in dribs and drabs, over many months, from a public-sector employees’ union, rather than all at once from the government. I’d have thought the government would want greater control over its message on such a file, but I appear to have guessed wrong.

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