Yes, we have opening remarks. Bear with me; they are more like speaking bullets than a speech.
I want to thank you and the members of the committee for having us here today.
As many of you know, PIPSC represents 60,000 members, and roughly 18,000 of those members work as IT professionals. We make up the largest component of the federal government's IT staff, with approximately 80% of those members expected to be within Shared Services Canada.
From our point of view, Shared Services Canada is a big and risky project. We believe PIPSC members—the people we represent—are key to the success of this project. PIPSC supports the concept of shared services, but it's how it's done. It's not a matter of whether it's right or wrong; it's how it's done that really will make or break this type of project.
As you know, in the literature there are examples of good ideas gone wrong. I'm talking about the Australian experience, where after seven years and $350 million later, there's certainly not a successful outcome. Overall we recognize that there could be value in this project, and we're trying to work in good faith with the government and with the Shared Services Canada regime management to make this happen.
PIPSC IT members do recognize that there is room for more streamlined and more efficient IT services in the federal government. But it's also important to note that these efficiencies will not be realized if there is not a plan up front and if there's not enough foresight to be able to work through some of the strategic issues, and not just on the level of the everyday operations of Shared Services Canada that we were brought in to talk about right now.
First of all, PIPSC members are always among the first to identify solutions. We want to be solution-based, and we have the knowledge of working at the work site to bring this to the table.
Initially when Shared Services Canada was announced, we were disappointed with the lack of consultation and the lack of transparency. Despite the legal obligation for the employer to consult with us, we really had to fight hard, in terms of sending letters to the ministers, in order to be consulted properly on this. I think that after some pressure, we were steered to work with Shared Services' senior management.
Since then we have been included in some consultation processes, and we are committed to continue to work with the employer throughout any implementation. But there are still many unanswered questions causing some uncertainty within our membership. For example, we still have not seen the business plan. We still don't have a clear budget for this, nor a human resources plan, which, as you can imagine, is very important to us as a bargaining agency: to look at where this is going and to look at how the people we represent are going to land on their feet or how they are going to be protected in some way as they move between agencies and departments.
In September 2011 we received the PricewaterhouseCoopers data centre feasibility study. We received this, by the way, from a journalist, which I think is indicative of part of the problem: if we were involved from the get-go, we would be able to provide some insight or foresight into the types of directions this needs to take to get to where the government wants to be with this. As we said, receiving it from a journalist is probably not the best way to receive it.
Upon review of this report, some fear emerged regarding the potential improper implementation of how we're going to proceed down this road to get there. Certainly from my members' point of view, there was a fear that this would result in some significant and probably unnecessary job losses, even to the point of boiling down some of the 320 data centres within local communities to a smaller number of data centres. As you can imagine, some of these data centres are in local or remote areas and in smaller communities, where one job is a huge economic impact compared to one job in a larger centre.
With the creation of Shared Services Canada, we also fear that there is a potential increase for unnecessary and excessive outsourcing, which we believe is expensive. There's less accountability. It has the opportunity or the ability to compromise standing principles in human resource practices, such as bilingualism, for example. That is also a concern to us--that should it be going in that direction, we want to make sure that those principles are upheld for our membership.
Our view is that providing IT internally is less expensive that contracting it out. More to the point, we're looking at the Government of Ontario experience back in 2005, when we had a commitment on the part of employer up front that said we're going to go down this road and we promise there will be no job losses. Right up front there was a commitment to the employees, to the bargaining agents. As I understand it, they have identified significant savings from going in that direction. We haven't seen the same offer and the same collegial spirit of working together on the part of this particular initiative this year at Services Canada.
The overall message is that our members are public servants and they're committed to the public good and they want to work together to find savings. Our members are also best situated to facilitate a smooth transition to the shared services model, which we believe can work if we do it right. Mistakes in the planning processes can lead to a dysfunctional shared services project outcome. We're worried about that. Ultimately, we need to ensure that Shared Services Canada is an entity that serves Canadians in the best way possible. While protecting our members out there, there's a continued opportunity to work together.
I'd like to pose that as our submission, and I'm be available to answer questions.