Whitehorse Daily Star

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Yukon Employees’ Union president Steve Geick and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn

Privatization unleashes angry backlash

The privatization of the Queen’s Printer is being criticized for a lack of open communication from its 18 workers, the Yukon Employees’ Union and opposing MLAs.

By Gabrielle Plonka on October 21, 2019

The privatization of the Queen’s Printer is being criticized for a lack of open communication from its 18 workers, the Yukon Employees’ Union and opposing MLAs.

“The way they’ve done this is totally disrespectful to all the staff (at Queen’s),” Steve Geick, the Yukon Employees’ Union president, told the Star this morning.

Seventeen of the 18 Queen’s employees belong to the union. Many attended an emergency meeting on Friday evening to discuss the sudden change.

Geick said employees felt blindsided by the decision and underwhelmed by the lack of communication regarding the timeline of the Queen’s closure.

About a year ago, Geick said, employees heard rumours that there would be a shuffling of staff and potential job loss. They were told “something is going to happen, but we don’t know what it is,” Geick said.

When staff members requested details from the Department of Highways and Public Works, they were unable to draw out any information. They feel they spent the year in limbo.

Last week, employees were told they would be moved into different territorial government jobs following the transition of the publicly-owned Queen’s. There were no descriptions of those new positions, nor an implementation date.

Geick said Queen’s Printer staff feel bewildered by the turn of events. They are unsure how to proceed without a timeline for closure nor more details of the jobs they will be moved into.

“The staff are saying, ‘So what do we tell our customers? The stock levels in stores right now are depleted, so where are we getting stock from?’” Geick said.

“The way people were treated was totally disrespectful for a government that prides themselves on being a top employer.”

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn told the Star this morning the decision to privatize Queen’s was made by the cabinet in late September. There was no public announcement.

He estimates the decision will result in $1.6 million in savings for the Yukon.

“As soon as that decision was made, and it was not made lightly … we reached out to the union to gain their opinion on how to proceed and how to deal with the employees,” Mostyn said.

“To me, the employees are very important; there’s a lot of good people in central stores at Queen’s Printer and we want to make sure they’re looked after.”

Mostyn said every Queen’s employee will be provided with an opportunity within the government.

Eleven positions have been allocated within Highways and Public Works, he said, all of which are based on work that is comparable to positions held at Queen’s.

He said privatization was an internal decision spurred by recommendations from the Financial Advisory Panel. His department was asked to limit the operations and maintenance budget within two per cent, and to seek out “efficiencies” within that budget.

Axing the public printing company is a result of necessary modernization, Mostyn said.

He noted the necessity of government printing services has decreased, as legislative documents are now posted online and government offices are outfitted with their own printers.

“It’s a completely different world, so we are modernizing,” Mostyn said. “It’s a difficult transition for people who have done this job a long time and have pride in their work.”

Work is currently underway to find a private company that will provide Queen’s services. Those include the provision of stationary and cleaning supplies.

Mostyn estimated a timeline of a “few months” to make the transition.

“There are already several print shops in town, already doing a lot of work for government, so that work will just continue and scale up,” he said. “The capacity is there within the private sector.”

Mostyn said he has not spoken with Queen’s employees but understands the shift is causing friction.

“When you go through a transition like this, there’s some sadness at this change in the work environment; I absolutely sympathize with that,” he said.

He maintained that the move away from government printing services is a natural shift happening country-wide.

There are not currently plans for an increase of privatization of government services, Mostyn said.

NDP MLA Liz Hanson told the Star this morning she is concerned about the lack of transparency in this decision.

She noted it was made without the tabling of documents, so there has been no opportunity to debate it in the legislature so far.

“What we’ve seen increasingly over the last two years is–– this is is a government that doesn’t want to engage in discussion with the elected members of the assembly,” Hanson said.

“These decisions are being made totally outside of the democratic process we are supposed to be engaged in.”

Hanson said she wants to see evidence of research from the Liberal government on this decision, with proof that quality of services will not be affected and real dollars will be saved.

She expressed concern for the displaced Queen’s employees. Many have worked together for several years and take pride in the services they provide.

“It’s not a very sensitive approach,” she said of the shuffling of staff. “People are not widgets. When you reassign people, what’s the environment they’re going to be reassigned to?”

As an example, she anecdotally knows a deaf Queen’s employee is aided by another who knows sign language, the result of a cohesive workplace environment that may not be duplicated when staff are moved into new positions.

She also expressed concern that the decision signals increased privatization for other departments involved with the financial panel’s review, namely Health and Social Services.

Geick, who spoke with the Star from Ottawa this morning, said he is in the nation’s capital on other business but is using the opportunity to speak with legal sources and assess the union’s options.

He said the union will be fighting the decision, if possible.

“It’s a pretty intricate thing,” Geick said, explaining he will be wading through the complex language of the union’s collective agreement, the financial act and the printing act in search of a battle plan.

Geick said he finds the process of privatization to be disingenuous to the Liberals’ oft-repeated mission statement of public service excellence.

“(The Liberals) talk about mental health in the work place, and there are people at this meeting in tears who have been there for decades, and are going to be farmed out to the Department of Highways and Public Works,” he said.

Geick added he is frustrated with Mostyn’s public declarations that his department is working “very closely” with the union.

“They didn’t work with us,” he said, noting the union was notified approximately one week previous to staff members being informed of the shuffle.

The fast pace of the announcement poses a problem for Geick, who wants it known that Mostyn’s assertions of comradery with the union are false.

“It almost makes it sound like we’re in favour of it, which we’re not,” he said.

Comments (35)

Up 5 Down 1

Yukon centric. on Oct 27, 2019 at 12:03 am

Watch what they do the department of economic development next.

Up 9 Down 0

Jim on Oct 26, 2019 at 6:02 pm

@CJ, are you kidding. Do you really believe that there is enough print work to employ 18 people? If there is, then the government deserves a failed grade in conservation for waste of paper. Surely we can’t base our decisions on what B.C. does. You are talking about a province that loves to tax along with more than 125 times the population. What is somewhat upsetting is that they can just absorb those individuals into the fold.
I feel for anyone who’s job becomes irrelevant, just look at Alberta, but it happens. That used to be part of life’s journey. If you really believe that the NDP are the answer, it leaves me somewhat worried. I realize we are a handout territory, with about a billion to waste, but don’t you think it would be wise to be just a little prudent once in a while. And yes, I’m am sure the private sector can handle the print load.

Up 5 Down 1

Mitch on Oct 26, 2019 at 3:42 pm

On the one hand, I grew up around printing and understand it's practical applications a little better than the average person and it is a little sad to see this venture shut down. On the other hand, I have spent the last 25 years criticizing the blatant and transparent gorging of YTG on both federal welfare state payments and taxpayers monies while touting themselves as an industry and sycophantic ally bloating their budgets.
There are a lot of good for nothing douchebags working for YTG and I think it could use scrutiny and downsizing. It is a modernizing world, newspapers and print media are becoming less relevant and are material intensive. However, like I say, grew up around print and I hope it never disappears and I wish the displaced employees the best of luck integrating into other positions. I am sure most of you earned your keep. I watched my mom do her job for many years and it comes with its own demands. There are other areas of YTG that could stand to be explored with equal scrutiny.

Up 7 Down 0

Moose on Oct 26, 2019 at 2:48 pm

@CJ You are wrong. B.C. did axe most of it's Queen's Printer in 2015. So did Alberta, NS and even the federal government. So I say it was the right move and probably overdue. Looks like YG is just getting with the times.

Up 8 Down 7

CJ on Oct 25, 2019 at 7:52 pm

Looks like BC kept the Queens Printer in government.

Seems funny to me that ex-editor Richard Mostyn would be the one giving the axe to the Queens Printer. It also seems like there's a cost to handling it this way, very de-stabilizing for the whole YTG work force. I'm skeptical the private sector can handle the work, actually. And I believe there is still a lot of print material coming out of the government. I had no objection to the Queens Printer hiring some good folk with special skills. It's like an elves' workshop over there.

I can't wait for the next election. I honestly wonder if I wouldn't vote for the YP, which would be a first. I don't care how many climate change initiatives the Liberals take on, they're trumped by the way they treat people. It's absolutely offensive to this constituent.

Come on, Kate, get some good candidates together.

Up 10 Down 9

Yukoner75 on Oct 24, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Someone should check to see if the BC government still has a fully staffed Queen's Printer or if they also have privatized this service. In most areas of government, Yukon looks to BC as a big brother with vastly more resources to evaluate the necessity of such things. If they still have a big Queen's Printer, then YG probably made a mistake. If they have privatized, I'd say good job Mr. Mostyn.

Up 19 Down 5

Snowman on Oct 24, 2019 at 9:40 pm

@QPstores Yeah that must be what it is lol. The Yukon Party is just so concerned about the well being of employees hahhaha.

But seriously, how do you think this should have been done? Do you honestly think that government should have consulted with the employees of a branch that was going to be privatized? Do you not see the possible conflict of interest or problems this would create? Looks to me like they did the right thing. You should be thankful you are moving to another position, if you were in the private sector you would just be canned and that would be that.

Up 23 Down 2

Simon on Oct 24, 2019 at 8:30 pm

Queen's Printer has been soul-searching, desperately trying to re-invent itself for years. Attempting to be something more modern and relevant. Mostyn simply ripped off the band-aid.

Up 8 Down 8

Buffalo Springfield on Oct 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

at Change needed - Is that one of those ironic monikers? Are you suggesting that the more we implement Liberal ideals the more people will need a guitar case, hat or cup to collect change in?

Soon everyone will need change!
Bring back the Queens Printers!

Up 13 Down 10

G. Wizz on Oct 24, 2019 at 6:17 pm

This will happen more and more with the Liberal government whose primary course of change management is divide and conquer. This was the coups d’etat that T1 inflicted on Canada in the early 80s...

The overthrow of democracy was implemented with the repatriation of the constitution... A tool of division and oppression. Canadians were left to languish in the shadow of a stratified, corporatist, legal-structure incapable of reconciling its mandate at even the most fundamental level let alone the mandate it holds most dear; the creation of a just society.

Now we live within the tyranny of a perpetual ebb and flow of various rights claims... However, in the current push some rights are more important than others and some rights groups more deserving of an advantage... Let’s tip the scales this way.

Equality can never be achieved in a me, me, me, system of stratified rights.
Can’t wait for the T2 Liberal’s introduction of a Social Status Card to determine your social worth - I think the Federal government is looking into how this system works in China? T2 certainly is a fan...

What’s your social credit value/score:
Social Credit System Coming To China, With Citizens Scored On Behavior | NBC Nightly News


Up 31 Down 9

QPStores on Oct 24, 2019 at 2:02 pm

Snowman ....how is the Yukon Party against this? Have you been listening to them? They are against how the government handled the whole thing, springing on employees that they we losing our jobs a few minutes before telling the world. Keep listening. How do I know this? I am one of those people. The government keeps telling people that no one lost their positions. So they will find something else for us to do. But yes, essentially we all lost our jobs without warning. So I would actually like to thank the Yukon Party for highlighting the crappy way the government is going about this. You can be for shrinking government in theory and also against treating people like crap.

Up 14 Down 6

Resident Not So Alien on Oct 24, 2019 at 1:10 pm

None of this is privatization. It is simply the process of modernization. Who can we get to press the print button? The person who wants it printed - easy peasy.

How can we cut costs? Have John or Jane Doe use their own paper and their own ink - easy peasy.

We are living in an era in which there are very real discussions about replacing lawyers and legal researchers with algorithms. Why not replace people who print things with... Hmmm... Think, think, think... I know, “print buttons” - That was easy!

As for the idea that we had a Queens Printer service as a means of insuring integrity, security, liability and control we must accept the changing nature of these concepts to accord more with the new direction - It doesn’t really matter...

Perhaps we should privatize though. We could contract out the management of the legislature, hire some people at half the cost, and have them make decisions on the things we need answers to. That’s it.

We could access the foreign worker program for this purpose. Yes, we could import decision makers from other countries to help us with ours... Exciting times.

Up 30 Down 7

YukonMax on Oct 24, 2019 at 11:42 am

It's easier to manipulate the private sector who depends on their contracts to make a living versus a bunch of unionized employees who will grieve their issues until the government heads spins...

Up 39 Down 13

Yukoner on Oct 24, 2019 at 10:41 am

Ugh.. all you YG employees are painful... this will save money in the long run because while no one loses their job down the road these positions will not have to be filled. Hopefully in the long run we can get to a point where less YG positions are needed, not more.
Just because you take pride in the service you provide does not mean it is useful or that it can't be done more efficiently and more cost effectively.

Up 28 Down 14

Change needed on Oct 24, 2019 at 9:35 am

Surprised at the comments of outrage at privatizing a non-required department. Not sure if it was ever relevant as the equipment has always been available in the local private sector. And yes, businesses have signed non-disclosure agreements long before now. YG is a big part why QP is not needed. They have outfitted almost every department with large copiers and even large format printers under the guise that it will make their department more efficient. Sure, just like the huge parks shop is required to build crappers and picnic tables. Or the YG sign shop to build a few signs. The list could go on. Most times the cost is justified as they don’t include building, overhead, staff or equipment costs in their sheet cost. They just include paper and ink. But from what I read, many people are happy with keeping staff, equipment and space running year round to print a budget document. Give your head a shake.

Up 23 Down 7

Snowman on Oct 23, 2019 at 9:49 pm

This is applaudable. Finally a government that is willing to get a handle on government growth. The really weird thing is that the Yukon Party opposed this, when they are supposedly Conservatives. The NDP makes sense since they believe in endless government growth and spending, but the Yukon Party? For shame! But then again they also wanted to add another MLA to the legislature as well so I guess they are being consistent in their fight to expand government. No longer a conservative bone in their body. They better get a new leader soon and not one of the current MLAs or any of the past ones. Why is it so fricken hard to find a real conservative around here!?

Up 29 Down 17

Resident on Oct 23, 2019 at 1:02 pm

It's not the privatization that should be a concern, it's opening up the industry to outside competition. YTG gives platitudes about fostering local business, while awarding work to whatever southern company opens a one-man office to satisfy 'Yukon content+presence' requirements.

And on the Central Stores half of this story:
Bravo to Staples for running out of paper twice on their new $100k paper tender with required minimum stocking levels. Brilliant move to force employees to buy the expensive stuff on credit cards because the cheap stuff is out of stock.

Up 19 Down 4

YukonMax on Oct 23, 2019 at 6:49 am

So happy YG will have the money to finally pay up the consumer price index adjustment of 1.4%. Yes, you read it, 1.4% to the small contractors due to them since April 1st 2019.

Up 28 Down 17

No, this action is a fundamentally wrong!!! on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:14 am

The Queens Printer exists in a very historic sense, across the Commonwealth, because governments need to print very important documents such as a budget or anything else. If you get rid of this very historic function, how do you ensure the government documents are being printed correctly? Excuse me but you are going to outsource the printing of official government documents because you think it will save money, when you as Minister for the Public Service Commission, don't even report in your budgets simple things like, " How many people actually even work for the government?". What kind of absurd and retrograde analysis led you to this conclusion? This is simply wrong!!!

Up 13 Down 4

Guncache on Oct 22, 2019 at 8:06 pm

I guess what's done is done. The liberal party has spoken. If the YEU was involved there is one union rep there who would give the Queens Printer staff less than stellar service.

Up 21 Down 9

Michael Miller on Oct 22, 2019 at 7:48 pm

You have to think about what next will follow.
They may privatize library staff and the Whistlebend continuing care facility workers since private companies will trim operating costs.

Up 21 Down 4

Honnorjustice on Oct 22, 2019 at 6:40 pm

It doesn't matter which party is in power Steve Geick is learning they are all the same. Contractors have been doing repairs to the highway so that's a form of privatization.

Up 27 Down 16

Juniper Jackson on Oct 22, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Someones friends are going to be making the big bucks.. are they held to the same standards as the Queens Printer? Are they sworn into non disclosure agreements? Over the years some pretty sensitive documents have gone through Queens..

I think it's a bad move.. Plus, Queens has millions of dollars in equipment. Jeez..I hate this government..lol..

Up 27 Down 6

Tater on Oct 22, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Groucho, you are right, there are lots of areas that can be done by the private sector much cheaper and with fewer people. When I was in YG management though, even suggesting to do so was a good way to be criticized.

Up 29 Down 8

Stew Pendis on Oct 22, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Finally - Is the YEU waking up? This government has been union busting for so long and otherwise operating as if the Union did not exist. It has appeared for sometime now that YEU was a bed-partner with the corporate structure of YG.

This government has been abusing the civil service for a long time: The jail is in a shambles, community corrections a joke, and Health and Social a disaster. Now we have the RWO who has in large measure created and perpetuated the workplace conflicts now patting itself on the back stating it needs to be more respectful of millennials - How about just treat everyone equally and quit creating silos - This is the problem and the problem with the Federal Libs - WTF?!?!

Mean while - YEU has demonstrated an absolute lack of understanding - A collective divided - WAKE UP!

Up 19 Down 16

Resident on Oct 22, 2019 at 1:37 pm

I wonder who's brother/buddy owns a print shop down south. Unless protections for local business continue, every last cent of this work is going to south.

And it's a lot. The Yukon is addicted to paper, the government buys more copiers every year.

Up 26 Down 12

Liberal Purgatory on Oct 22, 2019 at 1:32 pm

It’s time to privatize the MLAs. The MLAs could easily be replaced by a thoughtful algorithm or two. They would make better decisions and there would be no politicking involved; variable, variable, variable - output.

For example, with technology these days everything good be put to a vote in real time. Want to build a new damn, a new airport, pave and replace the highway, give money to this group for that purpose? Every citizen gets a vote - Now that’s democracy direct!

Forget the middle-[wo]man. Mediated democracy is so low-brow, so passé, that we should just say, nay! Why elect people who cannot advance your interests?
No more stupid elections. Everyone has equality of opportunity. No more budget overruns. No more, we favoured this group for so long so we are going to swing the pendulum this way to favour this group for so long.

Direct Democracy today - Vote and have “your-say”. Forget the unsympathetic, unresponsive, and unrepresentative intermediaries - speak for yourself.
Politicians are a disaster and a very real threat to those they rule or those they serve? Not sure what the thinking is today... Do they work for or against Joe/Joan public?

Q: What’s it costin Mostyn?
A: A lot of Silver.

Q: Can we De-Frost us?
A: If we don’t De-Frost is it’s really gonna cost us.

As the liberals put another lime in the coconut and dance along singing... doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo... [to the beat of Lou Reed’s - Walk on the Wild Side].

We are now in a Liberal Purgatory where everyone does just a little worse and nothing is ever settled. Trapped in limbo between heaven and hell - Phil Collins in the background sings - this is the land of confusion...

Up 52 Down 22

moose101 on Oct 22, 2019 at 8:20 am

Sorry but I agree with privatization as mentioned there are private companies in Whitehorse that can do the limited amount of printing that is now generated in a digital world.

Up 36 Down 14

drum on Oct 21, 2019 at 7:00 pm

YG decided to close the office I worked in - Management so no Union to fight for us. They took our job descriptions, changed the title and hired their own people. Never trust them.

Up 46 Down 19

Forever expanding on Oct 21, 2019 at 6:52 pm

This gives us all a pretty good idea that government will never shrink. Even when a service proves not to be needed, the out cry over being shuffled to another department has the union up in arms and preparing for battle. Makes you wonder where the pot store staff ended up at. I’m sorry for being so frank, but in the private sector, when your job is over your done. Plain and simple. You pack your bags and get looking for a new job elsewhere. We are at record low unemployment with businesses looking for bodies. Nobody should be out of work, but most likely not the pampered life they are used to.

Up 23 Down 18

Turn Back the Clocks - For some on Oct 21, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Of course they are going to privatize. Queens Printer is just the first stop. These people are the first of the privileged to get the axe. We must rollback wages and reset society so that the Millennials will stop fretting about the destructive nature of your prosperity. This is the grand experiment in which you have no say.

Up 58 Down 15

Oya on Oct 21, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Did this guy not state when running for office that he was all about making government more transparent? Was he not a reporter before winning the election lottery crying about how hard it was to get information out of the Yukon Gov? Another lying Liberal is what we have here. Richard Mostyn, you should be ashamed of yourself. I have no respect for you as a person or as a politician anymore.

This Yukon Liberal Government is just as bad as Canada's Liberal Government.

Up 39 Down 18

Groucho d'North on Oct 21, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Apart from the HR issues the Liberals have created for themselves in this change of services, I do support government getting out of the many things that can be provided by the private sector.
For too long government has been in an unequal competition with private sector operators who do not have the same deep pockets a government does, Unfair to say the very least. Printing is but one service, vehicle rental companies could provide equal or perhaps better services than the Fleet Vehicles Branch, Travel agencies in the private sector could also replace the same function used by government staff to book travel, and with all the chatter about carbon excesses from jet planes perhaps digital attendance to these meetings away could displace the entire government travel and its many perks for the privilaged - a lot more savings there too. Surveying, drafting, even road maintenance work and heavy equipment repair could easily be replaced by private sector businesses who employ Yukoners.
Not that I support the Liberals in any way, I do however believe government has grown too large and expensive and much of what they do could be done equally well if not better and cheaper by the Yukon's private sector businesses.

Up 36 Down 11

but how? on Oct 21, 2019 at 3:49 pm

How are they saving money if no one is actually losing a job? I think all of the union members are guaranteed jobs. I'm confused.`

Up 49 Down 6

Peter G on Oct 21, 2019 at 3:01 pm

So you guys will funnel more money to Staples so it can leave the territory. Makes sense.

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