Paid volunteers or redundant government employees?

I have been stewing about the announcement by the BC provincial government to encourage government employees to “volunteer” for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. These government “volunteers” would receive half their regular pay and the other half would be be paid with holiday time.

It puts a whole new slant on the word “volunteer”. My in-house conscience tells me that if someone paid me for volunteer work we would be financially independent. Maybe so, but then it wouldn’t be volunteer work. It would be a job.

But worry not! There will be no cost to taxpayers as the politicians spin it.

Colin Hansen, minister responsible for the Olympics, said Wednesday the paid leave would be covered by existing ministry budgets — not by any additional expenditures.

“No ministry will get more money to fund this. Supervisors will only free up employees who are not otherwise needed at the time.”

That’s the plan – they only use redundant employees. Employees that they are currently paying and don’t need?

Now there may be a deeper plan buried somewhere in this announcement, although the Minister says that it is simply a matter of improving the ambiance of the workplace.

Hansen said critics of the plan “don’t understand the importance of good employer-employee relationships and the importance of celebrating our employees.”


Hansen believes the paid-leave model for Olympic volunteers will “become a trend among private sector employers, in particular Olympic sponsors.”

The minister said the same paid leave was offered to provincial employees who became volunteers during the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

Paid leave was also offered to public and private sector employees during the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, he added.

The minister framed the volunteer plan as part of Victoria’s broader human resources strategy to recruit and retain skilled and motivated workers for the public service.

“We need to put programs in place that make the provincial government a magnet employer,” said Hansen.

“We need to attract the best and the brightest.”

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, this argument may fit with the government’s concern that they are looking at an outflow of senior staff retiring in the next few years and need to generate an inflow of young replacement talent.

But still the remark that there will be no additional cost, because they will be using employees who are not needed, rankles. It may not have been the best example the Minister could have given.


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One Response to “Paid volunteers or redundant government employees?”

  1. Peter Morgan Says:

    Well, if you consider the banked overtime belongs to the employee, not the government and the employee would get full value of those holidays if they didn’t volunteer, then you also have to consider whether they are only getting half-value for the days used if they do volunteer.

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