Contracting Out

Why It Never Works

What is contracting out?

Whether it is called contracting out, subcontracting out or outsourcing- each term has the same meaning- the use of private contractors and/or workers(other than the members of the bargaining unit who have traditionally done the work or should logically do the work). The most common practice would be a public employer contracting with a private sector employer to perform he work.

Most often the government draws up a detailed description of the work, publishes it and invites the companies to bid on a job by proposing a price for which the company will do the work. The government usually awards the contract to the company making the lowest bid. Contracting out is a SERIOUS THREAT to practice of having public employees provide public services. Basic public services are in the hands of private companies seeking to make a profit. This may mean reduced services for the public and substandard conditions for employees.


Services provided to the public suffer because the mandate of the private company is to maximize profits so the quality of the service will suffer.

  • The cost is higher – at the very least government continues to pay for administration of the contract and cost to monitor the contractor. Also private companies expenses will be higher as they must make a profit.
  • Less accountability – the public has no say on how to provide or change the service as the services performed are governed by the contract. The only way the government can make a contractor respond is to renegotiate.
  • Increased Costs – a contractor may offer a low price at first hoping the government will become dependent on the service-  once this happens they will increase the price.
  • Problems get the services needed through the contract – it is difficult to draw up contracts that ensure the government will get what it wants for the price it pays.
  • Failure to perform service – contractors may stop or slow down the work due to financial reasons which could leave the province or city without service.
  • Corruption – companies may engage in questionable practices to increase profit.
  • Poorer Services for the public – in the pursuit of maximizing profit they may result in decreased services and decreased quality.


Halifax Snow plowing
Halifax has been contracting out services for over 20 years, and every year the services received get worse. Snow plowing in the city was at its worst in 2015 when much of the cite was impassible for days, and some side streets were barely passable for more than a week after the storms. Contractors do not have proper equipment and cut corners. But the city was also at fault for failing to fill 40+ vacancies in HRM’s winter works program.

Snow plowing Port Hawkesbury 2015
Moved away from private contractors and now perform the work in house in 2015 when everyone else was over budget trying to dig out they has a surplus in the budget!

How to fight

The Best way to fight Contracting out in the workplace is to have great Collective Agreement language.

Does your local have contracting out language in its CA? send your language to us and we will post it here so other locals can see the kind of articles they should strive for in their next session of bargaining.

Local 1431
Article 33.01
The Employer agrees that normal work or services preformed by the employees shall not be assigned to persons outside the bargaining unit except in the case of emergency. In the event such an emergency should happen, no employee shall be laid off or displaced during this period.

Local 227
Article 31.01
No employee shall be laid off or suffer a loss of regular earnings as a result of contracting out of work preformed by employees in the bargaining unit.

Local 1867
Letter Of Understanding

The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure Renewal (the “Employer”) And
The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1867 (the “Union”)
The Employer acknowledges the Union’s concern regarding job security for long term employees.
However, it is understood by both Parties that, due to fluctuating resources, the Employer may be required to supplement its own winter fleet complement with the use of privately owned snow removal and ice control equipment in order to ensure the timely and cost-efficient maintenance of our highway system, with public safety being of utmost importance.
To that end, the Parties hereby agree that as of the signing date of this letter of understanding that:

  1. The Employer will have not more than forty-one (41) pieces of privately owned snow removal and ice control equipment under contract during each winter season for the life of Collective Agreement #13, excluding temporary use of non-departmental machinery during an emergency;
  2. The location of the pieces of contracted equipment may vary throughout the province and throughout each winter season;
  3. The parties agree that the terms of this letter of understanding are subject to the grievance and adjudication procedures as set out in the collective agreement.

Local 3008 B
Article 28 Restrictions of Contracting Out
In order to provide job security for the members of the bargaining unit, the Employer agrees that all work or services performed by the employees shall not be subcontracted, transferred, leased, assigned , or conveyed, in whole or part, to any other plant, person, company or non-unit employee.

Local 933
Article 37 – Contracting Out
37.01 The parties hereto agree that for the term of this Agreement there shall be no restriction on contracting-out by the EMPLOYER of the work or services of a kind now performed by employees herein represented; provided, however, that no permanent employee of the EMPLOYER shall, as a result of such contracting out thereby lose employment, be demoted or suffer a loss of negotiated basic wages and benefits. The EMPLOYER shall give thirty (30) calendar days, prior notice to the UNION of its intention to contract out work. No notice of contracting out is required where:
a) The work is not currently performed by members of the bargaining unit, or:
b) The work is currently contracted out, or;
c) The work involves the rental of operated or non-operated equipment for periods of thirty (30) days or less.