*On Thursday, October 17, Highways & Public Works Deputy Minister Jamie Pitfield called a surprise meeting where he coldly announced that both Central Stores and Queen's Printer were to be closed down, dissolved. I was shocked to my core. My heart was racing and I was physically shaking. I could barely control my emotions to even think clearly. I tried hard to compose myself and remain professional, but I couldn't stop the tears.
Right after being told QP and Stores were being dismantled, we had to somehow pull ourselves together as we were told to walk down to the Warehouse to watch and listen as the same announcement was made to the rest of our co-workers. We were told of this decision about ten minutes before a global message went out to everyone in YG. That felt like a slap - like our employer doesn’t respect us at all.
Today, I struggled to organize my thoughts to sit down and record how this week's news has hit me. I'm still reeling from the bombshell. Frankly, I've been in a state of shock. It's been difficult to carry on with life and to focus on my responsibilities; I'm really struggling to keep it together at work, and at home with my family.
Last December, HPW DM Jamie Pitfield called the first surprise meeting to announce they were planning a review of Supply Services, looking for efficiencies within the branch. He said the announcement was being made to quell rumours, and that no-one should worry about job losses. Not surprisingly, we immediately began to worry about job losses, and what this review might mean.
Many of us had already noticed strange inconsistencies in the 2018/2019 budget for Queen’s Printer. There was a cut of almost half a million dollars under the payroll column. When we asked about this drastic cut, we were ignored. We turned to the Union and brought our concerns to the Respectful Workplaces Office.
HR had scheduled meetings with each “affected worker’ for Friday - the day after the surprise meeting so we could learn what would happen to our jobs, to our lives. We still don't have a timeline, no job descriptions for the jobs they plan to shuttle us into, and no answers. We don't know if we have to take whatever job they offer, or if we can choose carefully, and we're scared.
The Queen's Printer is a national institution; first formed in Canada as an Act of Parliament shortly after Confederation in 1886. QP’s existence is legislated and governed by the Yukon’s Public Printing Act and Regulations. How can the important work we do just be erased?
The work of the QP has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of government. In fact, we no longer have printing presses, but do much of our publishing on-line. The public is accustomed to accessing the products we create digitally, often through our government website. Our department is very lean, and we generate revenue to support the QP Agency through the work we do for our clients. Our work also supports the private sector already, as a lot of the work we oversee is produced by local printers.
I would love to see the feasibility study that they say this will save the taxpayer $1.6 million; We were told the change is designed to save money; but how? How can money be saved if we are still being paid to do the same work, but less efficiently then we are doing it now? Many of the Queen’s Printer positions are funded in part through legislative appropriation - so won’t the employer lose that funding by dissolving Queen’s Printer? How can any savings be realized when no jobs are lost and we're all being moved into new positions in other areas of HPW?
And what savings can honestly be expected by eliminating Central Stores? Schools and Health Centres will have to negotiate their own supply contracts, and will have to store everything they need. That all means more money, more time wasted, and a much bigger carbon footprint. It just doesn’t make sense. The Yukon communities that rely on Central Stores for supplies will be the hardest hit. They are isolated. Community Health Centre staff are too busy to be running around to find supplies. Is YG expecting rural Yukon offices to order from Amazon?
Richard Mostyn says this will help grow the private sector; the businesses we’ve heard from are in shock and trying to figure out what will happen to their existing supply contracts. They’re also worried because they don’t have the space to store supplies for the government, and they don’t have the trucks and delivery people to send supplies all over the territory. The recently negotiated contract with Staples to provide paper has already proven to be a mess - even though they're required to keep inventory, they've run out not once but twice. And that means YG workers have had to go and buy paper at RETAIL on government credit cards while they wait for supplies. That's a costly and wasteful reality.
So much of what is produced by the Queen's Printers ss highly confidential, including contracts to produce important private documents for the RCMP. Is there a local firm willing to go through the rigors of guaranteeing that kind of confidentiality, even provided the clients are willing to allow private companies to do this sensitive work. And if no local firm can take on the full scope of work, or is under-bid by an outside company, what then? Will the government sell our jobs to the lowest bidder and send Yukon printing contracts down the highway?
Closing us down won’t save money; it will add cost and complication to the business of the Yukon Government. Richard Mostyn, you need to stop this while you can.
Yukoners, we need your support. If your workplace will be affected negatively by this change, let YEU know so they can help us fight for these services and the jobs we love. Reach out to your MLA, write letters to the editor, email and call Richard Mostyn, and tell him you want these Public Services to stay public. If you work for YG, your job could be next. If you are a local business person, consider the impacts on your business, your community and your customers.
*Article composed of words and insights from an aggregate of Supply Services Branch workers' comments.