New task force aims for diverse public service where everyone feels welcome
2016/12/13 Leave a comment
It’s important not only for the federal public service to be comprised of a fair representation of Canada’s various kinds of people, but also that these employees feel comfortable in their surroundings, says the head of Canada’s largest public service union.
Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said this is among the reasons the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has been established.
“We, as a union, have great concerns about our workplaces and whether the workplaces are safe for our members, whether or not they are harassment-free, whether or not there is violence in the workplace,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we were part of ensuring that the workplace was safe.”
She added: “While we strive to hire individuals who fall within the equity groups (aboriginals, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and women), you need to not just hire them; you need to provide a workplace where they are safe, where there is no harassment, where there is no violence, where they can be engaged in all levels of the public service, and certainly where there’s accommodation for people with disabilities.”
The new task force includes representation from the following unions: PSAC, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO). It also has members from management of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Correctional Services, Public Safety, Agriculture, and Public Services, as well someone from the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX).
“The way to make sure that people feel respected is that they feel included in the processes, in the decision-making, and just the overall work of the public service,” he said. “It’s one thing to have diversity in the workforce. It’s what you do with it that is going to be very, very important.”
Margaret Van Amelsvoort-Thoms, the Treasury Board’s executive director of people management and the other co-chair of the task force’s steering committee, said: “We want every employee to be able to bring their whole self to work, and so [the task force] is the strategy that says, ‘How do we do that and make this an inclusive workplace.’ ”
Mr. Rousseau said one of the task force’s objectives will be defining what diversity is. The federal government already has policies intended to ensure that women, aboriginals, visible minorities, and people with disabilities are adequately represented in the public service. He said preventing discrimination and harassment of people in the LGBTQ community is another issue that has emerged as something all employers should strive for.
Ms. Van Amelsvoort-Thoms added that other demographic factors, such as age, where people are from geographically, and their family structure, can also be part of the conversation about diversity.
The task force was modelled on the Mental Health Joint Task Force that was established in March 2015 under the former Conservative government and continues to function.
Ms. Benson described the roots of this newer Task Force on Diversity: “[Treasury Board President Scott] Brison and I had a discussion several, several months ago about the work around diversity and inclusion. We thought it would be good to construct committees that look like our Mental Health [Task Force],” she said, adding that the Mental Health Task Force “has worked really well.”
While the government didn’t officially announce the Task Force on Diversity until late November, it’s been quietly in operation since September.
Ms. Van Amelsvoort-Thoms said part of the work so far has been doing an “environment scan” of what various employers, in both the private and public sectors, are doing in terms of diversity and inclusiveness. She said the federal government is behind some sectors in its approach to this issue, while it’s ahead of others.
Mr. Rousseau made note of the technology sector, which he said during the 1990s boom years realized the practical benefits of staff diversity and how it brings an array of different perspectives to achieving business goals.