Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why is a super Crown Corporation needed?

NBU President Susie Proulx-Daigle speaks to members during a recent conference. NBU President Susie Proulx-Daigle speaks to members during a recent conference. Photo: Steve MacGillivray

Recently, the provincial government announced the creation of a new Crown Corporation that will be enormous in both its size and scope.
The new corporation will encompass the functions of Service New Brunswick, the NB Internal Services Agency, the Department of Government Services and FacilicorpNB. It will be responsible for areas such as finance, information technology and procurement across government as well as the two health authorities.
A government news release estimates the savings from the new Crown Corporation to be $30 million by 2020 while media reports have it pegged at $42 million by 2020-21. What's missing is an accurate picture of how those numbers will be achieved - apart from job losses.
The new corporation will result in 270 job losses, with approximately 60 per cent achieved through attrition. This is where the hard facts stop in terms of savings. The news release states, "Savings will be achieved primarily through the modernization of technology, automated systems and business processes and strategic procurement."
Those are not revolutionary ideas and one would assume all of those things are currently being done in government to one extent or another. A new Crown Corporation shouldn't have to be formed in order for it to happen.
This leads to the biggest question regarding the announcement: Why does this super corporation need to be formed in the first place? As stated above you can modernize the technology being used, put new systems in place across departments and implement strategic procurement without combining departments.
There appears to be no definitive answer. No documents have been released showing how the savings will be specifically achieved and there's no mention of the cost of consolidating services.
Another concern is the set up. Earlier this year, the provincial government announced it would privatize cleaning and food delivery services in hospitals. Under the new structure, it appears the employees would be on the payroll of the health authorities, but would be managed by a private company.
A confusing situation and one that is compounded when viewed through the prism of the goals of both the public and private sector. On the public side, the goal is to deliver the best possible service to New Brunswick taxpayers. On the private side, the primary goal is profit, not service delivery. The two are at odds.
This means you will have one group of employees operating in a way that is fundamentally different than their departmental colleagues.
The New Brunswick Union is not opposed to change. The NBU understands the fiscal situation facing the province. What is lacking, in our opinion, is consultation with employees doing the work. Why not ask for their opinions before making radical shifts in how government operates?
If we're to move forward cohesively as a province, government needs employees and citizens to buy into their ideas. Part of that is to implement the ideas put forth by New Brunswickers. You get those ideas by consulting front-line workers on how to improve service delivery.
The answers are there, we just need someone to listen.