Nearly 2,500 public servants to be moved for Portage III renovations

Nearly half of the federal employees who work at the crumbling downtown Hull office complex will be temporarily relocated to make way for extensive renovations.

Nearly half of the employees who work at Portage III will be moved starting in October

Approximately 2,500 people who work at Place du Portage III will have to move to other buildings during extensive renovations at the building, which recently had fiberglass netting installed to catch crumbling concrete. (Olivier Plante/CBC)

Nearly half of the federal employees who work at in the crumbling downtown Place du Portage III office complex will be temporarily relocated to make way for major renovations.

Approximately 2,460 of 4,500 employees who work at Portage III will be moved between October and June 2019, according to an email from a Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) spokesperson.

The department said they will be in temporary offices until 2025.

The employees will be moved to Terrasses de la Chaudière and Portage II in Hull, with some going to Esplanade Laurier in downtown Ottawa, said Michèle LaRose, the PSPC spokesperson.

The government approved a $480,000 contract last July for moving up to 3,000 employees from Portage III —along with their office equipment — elsewhere in the capital region by the end of March 2021, according to a request for proposals obtained by Radio-Canada.

Move could trigger pay problems

Sean O'Reilly, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said the union was never told that so many employees would need to move buildings.

He said the government has told the union it would move about 1,600 people voluntarily during discussions in the last two years. O'Reilly said he hopes the government won't force more people to move.

Bureaucrats who get moved to Ontario temporarily may face pay problems, O'Reilly said, given the number of errors from the Phoenix pay system. 

"Our biggest concern is when you have a change of province, your taxes change. When your taxes change, that has to be dealt with [by] the pay system. Right now we have Phoenix and there's been a number of problems with Phoenix pay system and the taxes that people pay."

The move from Portage III will happen between October and June 2019. (Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

Magali Picard, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is also concerned about pay issues. She said her union was not consulted about the move.

PSPC and Shared Services Canada occupy the majority of the square footage at Portage III, ​according to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's listing of federal properties.

The Portage III buildings were constructed in 1977 and the renovation project is meant to extend its life past 2027, according to PSPC.

The work will be focused on creating more modern, flexible and environmentally-friendly workspaces, LaRose said.

with files from Estelle Côté-Sroka and Jean-Sébastien Marier