Government employees are increasingly getting fired for misconduct and lacking the ability to do their jobs. Data obtained by CBC News show that the government fired 1,316 full-time public servants between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Seven hundred and twenty-six were dismissed for misconduct, while 590 were fired for
incompetence or incapacity. A further 862 employees were fired before they completed their probation.
Over 260,000 people work for the federal government, so it may seem like a small number of dismissals. However, the percentage of those released for misconduct and incompetence has increased 67 percent and 49 percent, respectively, since 2005-06.
The problem is even more widespread, but instead of being fired the employees are disciplined through reprimands or suspensions. There is no data on the number of federal employees who have been disciplined without being fired. “That’s certainly just the tip of the iceberg,” Chris Aylward, president of the
largest public service union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told CBC News. “Certainly, there’s a lot more public sector workers, I would think, being investigated and being disciplined but at a lower level — either written reprimands or oral reprimands.”
The increase in firings is partially due to changes the government made in 2014 to track employee performance, according to Nick Giannakoulis, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees. “Now, from an infrastructure perspective in terms of how PSPM (public service performance management) is managed electronically within departments, that is a much tighter process,” he explained. “So, there’s not as much latitude as there once may have been.”
The new performance management system combined with advances in technology have led to the removal of more people in the past couple of years. “It was, I believe, in a sense of continuous improvement, the public service — particularly at the senior management levels — wanted to root out people who were taking advantage of taxpayers or taking advantage of their positions or involved in some other form of malfeasance,” explained Conservative MP Tony Clement, who was president of the Treasury Board in 2014.
Advances in technology have also made employee actions more trackable, including whether they are moonlighting or doing something inappropriate such as stalking an ex. “All of this stuff is now online or can be found on the e-mail servers,” Clement noted. “So, if you have a reasonable apprehension that somebody might be
involved in malfeasance, there are ways to trace this now that weren’t there before.”
It’s not always easy to dismiss a government employee. The process can take six months to a year, particularly if it’s for incompetence. According to Giannakoulis, a manager must document an employee’s problems through a performance evaluation. The manager must then develop an action plan to give an employee a second chance to improve their work. Still, an employee and the union can fight the firing. It’s easier to dismiss an employee for misconduct, according to Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “If it’s something like an employee has been caught with child pornography on their computer, it doesn’t take a year to demonstrate cause,” she told CBC News. “It can happen overnight.”