I have been living in Ottawa for almost a year, and one difference I have noticed here is the UNION. Not a SQL union, not that one.. a labour union. Honestly, this is the first time in my not so short IT career where I see a labour union in action, and it is actually huge in Ottawa, since, as I understand it, every government IT employee would be a member of the union, and Ottawa IT jobs exist mostly in the government.
Now, why am I writing about it? I guess it is a bit of a cultural shock:) Nowhere else, not in a single company I worked for, neither in Canada nor in Russia there was a union I would be a member of. Not because I would not join if there were a union – maybe I would.. but there never was a union. Well, this is not to say that I am a member of the union now. No. I work alongside government employees, but I work as a subcontractor.
So, just at a glance, what makes unionized IT employment different here?
Well, first of all I guess it makes certain sense for a union to be around since there is no way the government can effectively deal with every individual employee. Dealing with a union that represents all those employees is, probably, more efficient.
However, as the union contract is negotiated, all union members become covered by exactly the same terms and conditions. Which makes it a somewhat interesting disposition since there is not a lot in terms of what every individual union member can negotiate when accepting a position that is covered by such a contract. Of course, different positions will have different terms in the contract, but, in general, there will be a limited number of positions defined by such a contract.
On the other hand, there are quite a few perks coming with union membership since unions are fighting tough for those. In a way, they are fighting to survive, since they cannot afford to become less attractive to their members. For example, how about having 15 sick leave days per year that you can accumulate over the years? Or how about the rule that new positions should be advertised internally first so that union members could take them before they are advertised to the general public..
That last one, by the way, is, likely, the reason why you will not find a lot of government employees on LinkedIn, or, if you find some of them, their profiles will often look very simple. There is, basically, no need for LinkedIn membership since public sector (“government”) recruitment process is quite different. This is a funny thing to say, btw, since “private” sector looks much more open/public in that sense.
Whether unionized employment is somehow better than non-unionized I don’t know. There are quite a few bright people I met over the last year, and they seem to be happy with their jobs. There are, also, quite a few equally bright people who did not seem so happy. In that sense, it’s not that different from how things look like in any other place, but, apparently, there is some difference in the internal mechanics.. and I will leave it at that – if you are coming to Ottawa for work, be aware of the unions:)