Industry experts are flagging new security checks as productivity speed bumps.
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) implemented mandatory credit checks as part of its personnel security process on Jan. 29, 2018. In practical terms, anyone working on a government construction project must go through the credit check process regardless of their position.
At the Canadian Construction Association’s Civil Infrastructure Council meeting, held during the association’s recent 100th anniversary conference in Banff, Alta, several members expressed concern that the new security measures would cause further work delays and hinder those in construction workforces with credit issues.
“The reason given for credit checks is to get a sense of the sensitivity of workers on a project to criminal elements and foreign governments,” said council chair Henry Borger.
He added by the government’s reckoning the security check should only take “two minutes extra” during the application process.
The Government of Canada’s website also points out the check is done at no cost to the applicant and does not affect their credit history. The government also has said, Borger relayed, that last year only 89 people were rejected out of 120,000 applicants.
“Anecdotally, I don’t know anyone who had to go through this for a job,” Borger added.
But other attendees at the council meeting expressed concern with both the process and its underlying reasoning when applied to the construction industry.
“It takes longer than is claimed,” council secretary Kyle Larkin said. “Also, construction is seasonal, which means some workers might be experiencing credit fluctuations.”
During a question and answer session members also pointed out while the industry is making efforts to hire more marginalized workers, those workers are also more likely to have credit issues, creating roadblocks to getting them into the industry.
According to the federal government, credit checks are “one of many factors considered when assessing risk to government information, assets and sites. PSPC will also verify an applicant’s background, education and professional credentials, personal and professional references and criminal record.”
Credit checks are mandatory for applicants needing a new security status or clearance, renewal of their status or an upgrade of their existing status or clearance. Previously, credit checks were done only for “Top Secret-level” personnel security screening requests and when PSPC needed additional information during an applicant’s security screening assessment.