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Monday, July 27, 2009

Where All the Employees are Above Average

Is this a good or a bad thing?

Workers in the federal public service continue to have the highest rates of absenteeism in the country, and they are shooting upwards in step with an economy-wide increase in days away from work over the last 10 years. According to Statistics Canada, last year federal employees were absent from scheduled work 16.2 days on average, between sick leave, family demands, and other personal reasons. 
This is in addition to vacation days, maternity leave and other scheduled time off. The next most absent groupings of workers were: - health-care and social-services providers, - provincial public servants and - municipal employees. Still, according to the Statistics Canada study, absenteeism rates in all sectors of the economy have been rising since the late 1990s with an average of 7.4 days lost per worker per year in 1997 up to 10.2 days in 2007.
So that's 10.2 days for the average worker, 16.2 for federal workers. As the Public Service keeps telling us, they are truly above average. The natural outrage is that taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth. Why do government workers get away with stuff like this? Because bureaucrats are different from you and me, they "work" for the government. 

The central problem of government administration is accountability. If that government Customer Service Rep tells you to go to the back of the line your options are: 1) scream or 2) obey. The phrase I'm taking my business elsewhere doesn't apply, so there's no need to bother playing nice. From personal experience I see people lose it far more often in government office than in private institutions. The last thing a front-line customer service rep wants at a bank or insurance company is a customer complaint. The unionized drone on the other side of the passport counter knows that short physically assaulting a "client," they have jobs for life. The bright side is that the less time governments employees spend at their desk, they less time they spend interfering with the rights of others. Note that I say employees not workers. Work implies productive effort.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 27, 2009 | Permalink


I don't think I took 16 days off sick (not including injuries, and that is something a little more provable) in my entire working career.

Posted by: V. M. Smith | 2009-07-27 8:39:07 AM

I know I haven't taken 16 days off, in 30 years. I took 2 days off, in 1980, with a severe case of salmonella poisoning. That's the only time off I can remember.

Posted by: dp | 2009-07-27 9:22:20 AM

Be nice to the poor public service employees, they need their stress leave more than we do. It's hard on the soul working an environment where good performance is punished.

Posted by: K Stricker | 2009-07-27 9:57:14 AM

Do you know why a government employee isn't allowed to look out their windows in the morning?.......... If they did they wouldn't have anything to do in the afternoon.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-07-27 10:17:44 AM

Hmmm...so does a government employee have any more or less stress than the average worker? Is a government employee any more or less satisfied by their work than the average employee out there? What does the government and management model to their employees?

Given that bigger government has gone the way of death and taxes - an inevitable certainty - I can't see the government employee having to be overly concerned about losing their jobs. Furthermore, the lack of competition for these services ensures that their "clients" have to keep coming back. Sounds like job security to me. LOL...

I would hazard a guess that many of these government employees took their jobs due to economic stability more than anything else. Without much consideration regarding job satisfaction I suspect that a lot of these government workers end up hating their jobs and they end up sick, stressed or playing hooky to survive.

I always believe that leadership starts from the top...if government and management weren't modeling these same behaviours, there's no way the employees would be acting in this manner.

Definitely challenging to call for accountability in an organization that fuels this culture of entitlement - regardless of the reason.

What about personal responsibility? What about being proud of working for a year and not having any sick time? What about the pride of doing a good job - regardless of whether or not you're having a bad day? What about acting with character and integrity because it's important? What about not stealing and taking advantage of an employer?

The most troubling thing about all of this to me is that a lot of people choose economic stability and misery and stay in a job they hate, as opposed to being courageous and making changes to be happier, more satisfied, less stressed, and live a more balanced life style.

Posted by: libertybelle | 2009-07-27 1:01:25 PM

I've worked for the government. If you think they don't do anything, you're on crack. Departments are chronically understaffed for the most urgent services and the public servants take the beatings for it. My work loads were comparable to the workload of 3 people in the private sector and you always have someone standing over you with a whip trying to make me go faster...not to mention having to deal with ignorant and rude people like there are here on this board...trust me, some of you fools aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

And if you think gov't employees are spoiled then you're obviously ignorant to the fact that they receive absolutely no rewards for their work. Promotions have nothing to do with performance and only executive staff members receive bonuses.

So don't compare private sector vs public without looking at all the facts. The public sector environment is negative in nature.

Posted by: idontthnkso | 2009-07-27 7:38:35 PM

If you worked for the government, ever, you're damaged goods. Most companies won't hire you with a government job on your resume.

You can save the sob story about how hard done by government workers are. Nobody here is dumb enough to believe you.

Posted by: dp | 2009-07-27 8:29:46 PM

The problem lies with the public service unions. Any manager in the public service will confirm that it is virtually impossible to deal with any employee who is an attendance abuser just as with one who is incompetent. I know of a few cases where employees had been charged and found guilty of a criminal offence and yet management could not fire them thanks to their union.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-07-27 8:56:31 PM

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