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PS Hiring Not Working


Ottawa Citizen








Kathryn May




Senator Ringuette




PS hiring rules 'not working,' senator says: Recruitment still too focused on Ottawa


 Federal bureaucrats are dodging new rules to open up all jobs in the nation's capital to the rest of country by simply not advertising them or using placement agencies to fill them, a Liberal senator says.

   "Here again, the young and qualified people from regions outside of Ottawa are being bypassed by the bureaucracy," said Senator Pierrette Ringuette. "If that is not bureaucratic patronage, I don't know what is."

   Ringuette believes the final step of a policy to open all federal jobs to anyone in the country that was introduced last January is being foiled by Ottawa bureaucrats.

   "It's not working," she said. "The commission spent millions of dollars to do this but the bureaucracy are bypassing it right, left and centre."

   "There is absolutely no reason why every federal job in Canada shouldn't be open to any Canadian no matter where they live ... I'm sorry this Ottawa exclusivity has gone far enough."

   There are said to be other reasons why bureaucrats aren't holding national competitions for every job.

   The Internet and the government's website has reduced the cost of advertising, but it remains time-consuming and expensive to hold a national competition -- especially when departments pick up travel for interviews and pay to relocate workers. Deputy ministers can decide whether to pick up travel and relocation costs for new employees, but automatically pay them for existing ones.

   Managers are also loathe to permanently staff a job when funding gets tight.

   "No one is trying not to bring in anyone here from outside because of nepotism, but they could be trying to avoid costs," said one official. "It might be worth picking up the travel and relocation costs of a nuclear physicist, but is it worth it for a secretary?"

   A secure public service job is always in big demand when the economy sours, but the freeze on departmental budgets will slow hiring. With fewer federal jobs, Ringuette is turning up the pressure so that positions up for grabs are nationally competed.

   Ringuette campaigned for years to end what she considered Ottawa's lock on public service jobs. She was a driving force behind the government's decision to implement "National Area Selection" to advertise all jobs nationally and end a 50-year-old practice of limiting recruitment to the region where the job was located. This was aimed at ensuring all Canadians had a shot at the best jobs at headquarters rather than just those living in Ottawa-Gatineau.

   It's now mandatory that all externally advertised jobs, whether for clerks or assistant deputy ministers, that are longer than six months are competed nationally.

   Ringuette says bureaucrats are simply deciding not to advertise open positions in the NCR, which they can do under the law. They have the flexibility to hire from inside or outside the public service and decide whether to advertise those jobs.

   The other way is to use temporary help and other placement agencies to find employees, which allows them to circumvent hiring and language rules.

   Ringuette argues both practices are on the rise.

   She raised the issue with Public Service Commission President Maria Barrados at a recent Senate committee meeting and Barrados admitted she was worried about the "Ottawa phenomenon" of temporary help agencies. The number of firms in the NCR and the amount they bill the government has exploded in recent years.

   Barrados his studying the temporary agencies, which charge the government about $300 million a year in the NCR. She says she wants to know what kinds of jobs agencies are filling and whether they should be permanently staffed.

   "I'm quite concerned about growth in temporary help and how that is used because this is an NCR phenomenon. It's not an issue outside the capital," she told the committee.

   Ringuette argues the commission should operate its own pool of temporary workers, especially for administrative and clerical positions, rather than shelling out big fees to temp agencies.

   The commission's annual report shows about 63 per cent of positions are advertised -- a rate Ringuette says should be at least 90 per cent.

   Statistics show Ottawa-Gatineau, which has the lion's share of the jobs, attracts the most applications -- 214,800 -- but the bulk of them come from people living in the capital region. Ottawa-Gatineau, when compared with other regions, draws the lowest proportion of outside