It’s National Public Service Week! That special time of year when employees of the federal public service celebrate their professionalism … dedication and hard work which contributes to the quality of life of all Canadians.
Scoff if you must, but there are nearly 400,000 men and women across this great country of ours who spend their workdays serving the people of Canada. There are those the public sees:
- The guy with the toupee who smugly points out that your passport application can’t be processed because you forgot to fill in section “C”…come back later and stand in line for another hour.
- The Paris Hilton look-alike who makes you feel small and treats you like a nuisance because you’ve come to file for Employment Insurance after being laid off from your job.
- The clueless 25-year-old who was your parole officer after your last stint in the big house.
- The officious prig who seems incapable of giving you a clear answer to your income tax questions.
- The bedraggled bunch you see marching around downtown on-strike every 3 years or so demanding better pay and infuriating you to no end.
They’re only the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands more just like them that the public never sees. The ones that sit in their tiny cubicles every day and do mind-numbingly boring stuff in artificial light using 10-year-old technology. Stuff that represents a teensy, tiny drop in the gigantic Government of Canada ocean. Stuff that’s completely unconnected to anything tangible that you can go home at the end of the day and say, “I did this.” Stuff that usually ends up collecting dust in a drawer somewhere.
And while you, the general public, only have the pleasure of dealing with a public servant once or twice a year, we have to deal with each other every freakin’ day.
And no matter how hard you work, you cannot be promoted. No. In order to move up the ranks you have to wait until a job competition is announced. Then you may apply along with all the other public servants, and often, along with the general public, too. You have to word your application just right or you’ll be disqualified from the competition. If you get accepted, you’ll have to sit a written exam. If you pass that you’ll have to do an interview or presentation or some other demonstration of skill in front of a panel. If you pass that your referees have to fill out a 4-5 page reference form. Then you wait. And wait.
The entire process usually takes a year or more.
Then you may be placed in an actual position or you may be placed on a list until an actual position can be approved. The list is usually good for a year. When it expires, you may just be out of luck or you may have to do the whole thing all over again.
The kicker is that many times, the job you’ve gone through all this for is the job you’ve actually been doing on an “interim” basis for the last 3 years.
Oh, boo hoo – right? We’re overpaid, have benefits out the ying-yang and an awesome pension plan, right? Well, these days the pay seems to be on par with a lot of the private sector equivalent positions and our benefits and pension are pretty basic.
What makes it all worthwhile though, is that the public service is lifestyle-friendly:
- People of every ilk and description are embraced into the fold and accepted.
- And once you’re in, you don’t always have to be worrying and looking over your shoulder to see if there’s an axe hovering over you. Because as difficult as it is to get promoted, it’s much, much, much more difficult to get fired.
- You rarely have to work overtime and never have to work weekends or any of the statutory holidays.
- If you’re sick, if a family member is sick and needs your care, there is accommodation/time off for that.
- If you need to get to an appointment, there is accommodation/time off for that.
- If you want to learn, take courses, attend conferences, there is accommodation, time and financing for that.
- If you want or need to move to another department or another province this is accommodation for that.
- If you need a flexible work schedule or need to work at home some days or need to take the summers off to be with your kids, or need to take personal leave or some other kind of long-term leave, there is accommodation for that.
- And the number of our annual vacation days is pretty good, too.
It’s a job that fits in with my life rather than a job that takes over my life.
To me, and probably most public servants, that’s of primary importance. We generally have a pretty relaxed and casual attitude toward the concept of “work” and we’ll never be rich or famous, but we somehow still manage to keep things ticking along regardless.
So, WOOOOOT for us.