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Fed’s annual employee survey cut, BC’s provincial survey thrives

Another pivotal source of public information has undergone cuts, according to a Canadian Press report published yesterday.

In June, the Treasury Board of Canada denied a proposed annual version of the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), a federal civil servant survey done every three years to measure everything from demographics to harassment.

One million dollars in funding for the survey was cancelled by the board, and any work begun on the project stopped due to the high cost of conducting the survey, according to the report.

The non-annual PSES survey is voluntary and was filled out by nearly 170,000 of the 258,000 federal civil servants who received it in 2008.

Among the findings were indications of harassment and discrimination from thousands of respondents.

Sixteen per cent of respondents indicated harassment once or twice in the last two years, while 18 per cent indicated alleged gender, age and ethnicity defined discrimination.

The next installment of the non-annual survey is due in 2011.

Current, annual data could be crucial in a number of ways, said Kay Sinclair, B.C. regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union that represents federal employees across Canada.

Such survey information informs them of worker aspirations, changes in the workforce due to boomer retirement and union bargaining with the government.

Since consultation between the government and unions has receded in recent years, surveys like PSES are valuable ways of keeping track of worker opinion.

Additionally, Sinclair feels that the $1 million dollar price tag is high for a survey that will largely be filled out online.

“I just don’t quite…buy that,” said Sinclair. “It just seems like this government doesn’t like to have data.”

B.C.’s Work Environment Survey, a similar questionnaire given to provincial public employees annually, is considered a valuable source of information on the civil servant workforce.

Annual data allows the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) to track trends in a time when employee satisfaction is plummeting due to government cutbacks and increased workloads.

“Good employers know their workers…there’s real value in tracking and understanding the concerns and problems that affect public sector workers in B.C.,” Oliver Rohlfs, a communications officer with the BCGEU told The Tyee.

“Particularly so in periods of fiscal austerity.”

Justin Langille reports on the landscape of work for The Tyee.

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