Paul Johnston, YEU vice-president, from left, Steve Geick, YEU president, and Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, speak to media about the closure of Queen’s Printer in Whitehorse on Nov. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

PSAC president speaks out about Queen’s Printer, Central Stores situation

‘It’s not good for the Yukon. It’s not good for the taxpayers of the Yukon.’

The national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada is vowing union officials will be watching the Yukon government carefully to ensure the printing of sensitive documents stays in house with what remains of Queen’s Printer and that further government services are not privatized.

Chris Aylward’s comments came during a press conference at the Yukon Employees Union office Nov. 14 in light of the Yukon government’s planned closure of Central Stores and restructuring of Queen’s Printer, which prints government documents, to now only be printing documents that are of a sensitive nature.

The press conference was held ahead of a noon rally outside the Yukon legislature over the issue that saw union supporters also take in question period.

There are no job losses for the 17 employees impacted, as staff have been reassigned to other government positions, but union officials have been vocal about it arguing there was no consultation and the sudden announcement has left employees feeling anxious and stressed about their future. Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn has argued that the union and staff were consulted as soon as the decision was made.

“We have followed the collective agreement,” Mostyn said.

YEU vice-president Paul Johnston pointed out though that despite keeping a job with the government, impacted members are concerned they are being moved into positions that may not fit their job description or doesn’t align with their career goals.

At a time when the territory’s population is growing, public services are being watered down, he said.

“We’re very concerned,” Johnston said.

The government has put the changes forward as a way of saving $1.6 million each year, but union officials are taking issue with that.

“This is not a cost savings measure,” Aylward said, later arguing that many reports and studies show that similar moves — what he argued amounts to privatization of services — by other governments have resulted in higher costs in the long run.

The Yukon government has estimated the move will save $1.6 million a year, amounting to $16 million over 10 years. Aylward said he suspects in 10 years, government officials will learn the move actually cost $16 million.

YEU president Steve Geick said government employees have told union officials of a number of times items weren’t stocked at Central Stores and they were sent out to a grocery store to get the item. He questions how that saves the government any money over having items available in bulk at Central Stores.

“You’re paying retail prices,” he said.

Aylward also pointed to the Yukon government’s recent decision to be among the many jurisdictions around the world declaring a climate change emergency, arguing this only contributes to the growing climate crisis, as more goods will likely be shipped to the territory through online purchases as a result.

“It’s not good for the Yukon,” he said. “It’s not good for the taxpayers of the Yukon.”

Ultimately, Geick said he wants the government to reverse its decision that will shut Central Stores and restructure Queen’s Printer.

The issue also dominated question period in the house Nov. 14 with many of those who attended the rally heading into the legislature to observe the proceedings.

Mostyn continues to stand by the plans.

He said he “has every confidence in the local business community” in taking on the role of supplying the government with goods and pointed to a request for information that has closed. That information will be used in a request for proposals to secure janitorial supplies, stationary goods and safety equipment, he said.

It could take up to a couple of months before that RFP is released Mostyn said, noting the closure of Central Stores will be a slow transition.

The change is necessary to modernize how government is run, he said, emphasizing that no one is being put out of work. In most cases staff will continue in similar jobs with all impacted workers maintaining their job level with the territory.

The government values the skills and knowledge each of the staff have and will bring to the roles they take on.

“We truly value the employees impacted by this decision,” Mostyn said.

The minister acknowledged that it will be a difficult move for many employees who have worked with the same co-workers for many years, but again said it is a necessary move to modernize and will benefit the territory overall.

“The world is a different place today,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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