Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Government Contractors and Real Working Stiffs

Today, Canada’s largest provincial government got embroiled in a controversy which is unfortunately all too common – contracting out work.

Ironic, THE top election issue for the past several elections has always been jobs. Job creation, getting unemployed people working, getting under employed people work in their fields, job training, jobs, jobs, jobs – but not if you work for the Province of Ontario.

Jobs and getting people working in this economy has been the top electio

The previous wordmark of the Government of Ont...Image via Wikipedia

n issue at all three levels of government in Canada, and much of the world, for several years.

So why is it that to get a job in Ontario, you have to be willing to sacrifice all the perks of having a job, and work as an independent contractor?

Or so that would appear to be the case if you worked for the Ontario Ministry of Health over the past decade. According to a report released by the province’s Auditor General, the eHealth Program Branch (not the already controversy beleaguered eHealth Ontario) had 27 people on staff, and over 300 independent contractors on the books. Many of those independent contractors were in senior management roles, leaving one questioning, just how good were their decisions for the good of an organization which they had no real bond or ties too.

Obviously, they weren’t all that well thought out, as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty took the rap today for having most of those contracts not going through the provincially regulated channels of open bidding. Instead they all went to friends, family and colleagues of those independent contractors, according to the province’s auditor.

There’s nothing wrong with being an independent contractor. Work is work, but it’s not a job, as a job comes with benefits, and some sort of sense of security in employment.

Aside from the facts coming out of the auditor’s report of the $1 billion of wasted tax payer dollars to fund these independent contractors (many of whom overcharged for their services), and aside from the fact that they got into managerial roles and only hired their buddies (which happens in all workplaces anyways), the real issue is the hypocrisy of the lack of job creation within government, by the very same government saying they are doing what they can to create more jobs.

More and more private companies these days are hiring contractors and independent consultants than putting people on their own payrolls. It saves them money – big time. Instead of having to provide benefits, and pay for employees sick and vacation time, all they do is pay an hourly wage for someone to work on a specific project. When the project is done, they may keep the contractor on, or say goodbye, without having to fork over a mint in severance pay.

Contractors can make a lot more than salaried staff employees. The wages are higher, because the contracts are for a limited time period, so the

Dalton McGuinyImage via Wikipedia

re is an understanding between the “employer” and the contractor that this isn’t a regular, full-time permanent gig – it is just a temporary work arrangement.

It is the business equivalent of marriage versus a one night stand. Marriage is supposed to last forever, is a lot harder from an emotional and legal perspective to get out of, and creates a sense of belonging and security in the stability of the relationship. A one night stand on the other hand, anything goes, there are no strings attached, and there is little to no emotional or legal cost to get out of one, as there is no stability or sense of belonging as it is only a quick fix, to a basic human need for companionship or physical connection.

And that’s the big downside to contracting – no security nor sense of belonging. You can be let go in a second if the company you’re working for decides they just don’t need or want to fund the project you are assigned too. You don’t get paid for all those statutory holidays that everyone else gets. You don’t get paid for when you have to take a sick day. And vacation time? HA – you’re lucky if you’re entitled to even take time off, let alone getting paid for that time off.

You’re just a quick fix, a band aid for one company’s short-term problems. That band aid could last a few weeks, months, or years if you’re lucky. But eventually – and there’s always an eventually – the contract will end, and you will be out on your butt looking for your next gig.

That’s the life of an independent contractor. A consultant. A one night stand in the business world.

So Canada’s largest province has been creating one-night stand temporary quick fix types of work, instead of real, long lasting, stable and secure jobs within it’s own ranks, while claiming to be creating real jobs for real people – as they said during one of their promotional campaigns a while back.

In the short-term, and perhaps for the length of this government’s run in office, these contractual gigs happily keep the unemployment numbers low. In the long-term, when the contracts end, many of these independent contractors go out looking for their next gig, unemployment will again jump.

Especially once the province’s Auditor General’s report is implemented – new rules and restrictions will go into place to prevent the excessive consultant charges, and unfair hiring practices used by those consultants and their agencies, from ever taking place again.

Yes the whole contractual bidding process is a mess in Ontario, and the amount of overbilled consultant fees stinks. But the bigger issue, the one which really eats into our society is the fact that the very same governments aiming at creating jobs, don’t offer any themselves.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment