Summary of David MacDonald's presentation: precarious employment in the public service

December 16, 2015

Youth (1)

David MacDonald, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, recently spoke to an audience of young workers and public servants at CAPE national headquarters about temporary employment in the public sector, outsourcing and other trends.  David began by noting that young workers in all sectors across Canada are much more likely to be hired as temporary employees than the general population. 

Moreover, since 2010, when federal and provincial governments began implementing austerity budgets, the proportion of youth across Canada working in temporary jobs increased more rapidly than it did for the general population.  The trend has been equally marked in the public sector at the federal, provincial, and municipal level.  Young workers in the public sector, in other words, are much more likely to be hired as “term,” casual or through other precarious contracting arrangements than older ones.  At the same time, both temporary and permanent positions have fallen in the federal public sector since 2010.  David also spoke about the shifting nature of outsourcing in the federal public sector, which is increasingly associated with longer-term contracts for temporary workers hired-out by large consulting agencies.

Following the presentation, audience members discussed the implications of these trends.  There was particular concern about the fact that workers entering the public sector as temporary employees are often non-unionized or have very little contact with their unions.  This could render such employees particularly vulnerable to abuses.  From a labour standpoint, it may also work to further undermine the health and vitality of public sector labour unions.  Audience members also identified areas where more research is required, particularly in terms of age trends in the federal public sector.

The event was sponsored by the CAPE Education Committee in collaboration with the Young Members Advisory Committee (YMAC) and the newly organized Inter-Union Youth Caucus. Unionized and non-unionized public sector workers were invited to attend.  For more information on how to become involved with CAPE on this issue, contact Wayne Fan: