Ontario Teachers’ to outsource 108 IT positions

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is coming under criticism for a plan to outsource 108 technology jobs.

The move will outsource 35 bargaining unit positions, 12 management roles and 61 contract jobs to Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. The affected roles, which will continue until Jan. 1, 2017, are in Ontario Teachers’ enterprise technology service division that oversees data management and security. Some positions will move to Tata’s Ontario facility, with others sent to India. Some will remain at Ontario Teachers’ offices as well.

Read: B.C. Nurses’ Union staff strike over sick day benefits

“The employees right now are being expected to train their replacements,” says Jeff Billard, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 598, which represents the 35 bargaining unit staff.

The main reasons behind the move are access to best practices, innovation and enhanced delivery capability, says Deborah Allan, vice-president of communications and media relations at the Ontario Teachers’ plan.

“The competitive nature of the investment environment is accelerating,” says Allan. “We’re dealing with competition in a global environment and we have to be able to respond quickly. So really, this is a move to rapidly advance in both our IT and some of our service delivery functions capabilities.”

Read: Ontario Teachers’ appoints new CIO

Ontario Teachers’ told OPSEU of the staffing changes at 9 a.m. on July 26, 2016, and informed employees shortly after that, according to Billard. He’s disappointed the pension plan didn’t approach the union before outsourcing the positions, which amount to more than 10 per cent of the bargaining unit.

“I think there are a number of things that would have been considered had we been approached,” says Billard.

“If it were a binary situation where jobs are lost or jobs are not lost, then certainly, there are a lot of things that we would have explored and said you know, there are different ways of making sure these people retain their jobs. . . . There’s been no indication that any of these jobs are being outsourced because the employees couldn’t do the job or they couldn’t do them well. The outsourcing was we have more work than ever and now we need additional help, but with this additional help, we no longer need you because we now have more help than we actually need.”

Allan declined to comment on why Ontario Teachers’ didn’t speak to the union before finalizing the deal with Tata.

The union is still determining the best way to respond, says Billard.

“We’re continuing to be in discussions with the employer. We’re optimistic that there’s some agreement that can be reached,” he adds, citing a settlement for the employees or a policy grievance. He also says the union is still exploring whether the collective agreement allows for outsourcing.

Read: CPPIB and Ontario Teachers’ oppose Bombardier executive pay proposal

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation, one of the pension’s plan sponsors, wrote to Ontario Teachers’ president and chief executive officer Ron Mock in early August to “register our disapproval” of the outsourcing.

“As partners in the plan, with the government of Ontario, OTF’s strong preference would have been to develop and supplement skill sets at Teachers’,” president Francine LeBlanc-Lebel wrote in a letter published on the union local’s website. “Additional staff could have been hired if the work involved exceeds present internal capacity.”

Allan confirmed Mock had received the letter but declined to comment further. However, she says hiring more employees wouldn’t solve the pension plan’s issues. Tata “has 3,500 employees here,” she says. “They have 350,000 staff globally. So if we’re going to get to an end game quickly, we need these kinds of resources.”

LeBlanc-Lebel, however, cited concerns about the optics in her letter. “OTF and its affiliates publicly support income security for all, during working years and in retirement,” she wrote.

“Our membership is sometimes criticized, sometimes envied for the retirement system they have; decisions taken by Teachers’ can certainly impact the reputation of Ontario’s teachers as a whole. This is a circumstance where that risk is very real.”