Message from the President – Response to Tony Clement’s Speech to Senior Management Officials on Poor Employee Performance in the Public Service

I have received a number of calls from Local members and other public servants expressing their concerns about recent statements made by Treasury Board President Tony Clement in his recent speech to senior managers on the ‘new’ Directive on Performance Management for the public service.

I share many of their concerns and wanted to respond to the comments made by Mr. Clement, as well as provide my perspective on the matter:

Firstly, I was disappointed by the underlying tone and nature of his remarks that seemed to characterize government employees as sub-par.  The statistics he used did not point to any actual evidence of employee performance issues, rather the ‘unlikelyhood’ that so many government employees could possibly be performing that well and thereby worthy of keeping their jobs.  The messaging here is demoralizing for dedicated workers who are already feeling the stress of more work, less staff, and having to worry about additional cuts to programs and jobs.

Directive on Performance Management – Employee Performance

Performance evaluations are standard tools for Managers to use in evaluating employee performance and the utilization of those tools is a management responsibility.  The objectives discussed in the performance evaluation should be met or a failure to meet them could result in steps leading to termination of employment.  The legislation has not changed (see section 12 of the Financial Administration Act below, that has been in effect since 1985).  With reference to the new Directive on Performance Management, managers are being encouraged and obliged to deal with employees who have performance issues.

What does this mean for our members?

Risk:  micromanagers or abusive managers could use this power to abuse their authority.  Those employees who are particularly at risk will be people who are afraid of conflict, afraid to seek union help; and people who continually use their sick leave up and the leave banks are empty – These are the individuals who are most likely to feel the effects of these changes.

Long-term medical leave – Though it is true that there are many employees who continue to be ‘on-the-books’ on long term medical leave without pay, I found it inappropriate that Mr. Clement talk about this issue in the context of a speech on performance management…doing so implies that employees who are legitimately off work for serious medical conditions are somehow trying to ‘play the system’.  In actuality, it is the employer who is responsible for lack of follow up with these individuals. These employees are not off work because of poor performance…in fact there are many cases where toxic work environments and abuse have exacerbated existing medical conditions to the point where employees feel that they have other option than to escape the situation.

Final Thoughts:

I feel that in Mr. Clement’s speech that he should have included greater emphasis on strong leadership and a commitment to early identification of issues, early conflict resolution, and leading by example.

Now that the tone has been set with Mr. Clement’s speech, and with the new directive coming into effect next year and, I strongly encourage all of our members to read the new directive and take steps to understand your rights and responsibilities for delivering on the objectives that are outlined at the beginning of each yearly performance evaluation cycle.

It is important to put your best foot forward and set yourself up for success…that includes using sick leave only when absolutely necessary and not sporadically. When toxic work environments start to become apparent, you can’t run away from these problems by taking long term disability of leave without pay – this will not save you from termination…

If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, particularly where you feel your work performance is suffering because of it, you need to contact your union for support right away! Tony Clement emphasized the point that Labour Relations and Treasury Board and the Government are fully backing Managers to address employee performance which can be very intimidating for some employees…but please know that each of our members has the full support of your union and when things get tough, we will be there for you and we have your back.

Rotha Lennox

President, Union Local 70713

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Related Legislation -*Financial Administration Act states that:

12. (1) Subject to paragraphs 11.1(1)(f) and (g), every deputy head in the core public administration may, with respect to the portion for which he or she is deputy head,
(a) determine the learning, training and development requirements of persons employed in the public service and fix the terms on which the learning, training and development may be carried out;
(b) provide for the awards that may be made to persons employed in the public service for outstanding performance of their duties, for other meritorious achievement in relation to their duties or for inventions or practical suggestions for improvements;
(c) establish standards of discipline and set penalties, including termination of employment, suspension, demotion to a position at a lower maximum rate of pay and financial penalties;
(d) provide for the termination of employment, or the demotion to a position at a lower maximum rate of pay, of persons employed in the public service whose performance, in the opinion of the deputy head, is unsatisfactory;
(e) provide for the termination of employment, or the demotion to a position at a lower maximum rate of pay, of persons employed in the public service for reasons other than breaches of discipline or misconduct; and
(f) provide for the termination of employment of persons to whom an offer of employment is made as the result of the transfer of any work, undertaking or business from the core public administration to any body or corporation that is not part of the core public administration.

Link: Toronto Star article of May 28, 2013 “Tony Clement to ‘poor performers’: work harder or you’ll be let go”, written by Richard J. Brennan Provincial Politics

 

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