COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for April 16, 2021

Dear members,

My last message to you was nearly a month ago. And, in that short time, it seems that spring has sprung here in the northern hemisphere. Though many places around the world, including here in Canada, are going through the most difficult wave of this pandemic, spring is a time for optimism. The advances being made on vaccination programs for those of us in Canada and abroad promise a brighter future.

For many of you, this brighter future includes a new posting abroad later this summer. Earlier this week, I was happy to learn that GAC is working with the Canadian Armed Forces to administer vaccinations for those going out on posting. Although the details are still fuzzy, this is an important step forward.

Those of you going on posting will have to undergo a medical evaluation. We have had a few reports of members who felt these evaluations were held in an unfair or discriminatory way. I want to remind you that since July, a framework has been put in place by Health Canada whereby your evaluation can be conducted by your own physician. If you have concerns about how your evaluation was conducted, please do not hesitate to contact our office for assistance from one of our labour relations advisers.

As mentioned previously, PAFSO, PSAC and the other bargaining agents are launching a new round of negotiations with Treasury Board to update and strengthen the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). The much-delayed talks are starting after the federal public service unions and the National Association of Federal Retirees threatened legal action earlier this year to compel the government to come to the table.

The health care plan, which covers most federal public service workers and retirees, has not been meaningfully updated since 2006 and needs significant updates to reflect recent medical advances, increases in the cost of health services, and emerging technologies. The comprehensive set of proposals to improve the health care plan that we are advocating include:

  • greater coverage for vision care (including laser eye surgery)
  • increased coverage for all paramedical services (such as physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic care)
  • improved coverage for psychological services (including higher claimable maximum and access to a wider range of practitioners)
  • removal of prescription requirements for paramedical benefits claims
  • new coverage for acupuncture services
  • new coverage for medical cannabis

You can find the full list of proposals we, and the other bargaining agents, are bringing forward here on our website.

Recently, the ongoing PAFSO Virtual Breakfast series had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Raywat Deonandan for an important discussion on the current state of the pandemic. If you didn’t have the chance to participate, you can find a full recording of the event on our YouTube channel. Our next breakfast will take place on Tuesday, 11 May, and will feature Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol of Canada, on creative networking in the pandemic. Please register here.

Speaking of the PAFSO Breakfast series, Tim Martin, author, former colleague and former guest of the series, will be joining CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau for a conversation on the power and potential of women through the lens of international security. Tim will be talking to Hannah about his political thriller, Moral Hazards, and the issues it raises: military intervention, rape as a weapon of war and the role of warlords. The event takes place on April 20th, from 7 to 8 p.m., Ottawa time. Tickets are $25 and are available here. The event is a fundraiser for Project TEMBO, a charity that brings education and micro-business opportunities to women and girls in Tanzania.

I am pleased to announce that the first issue of the relaunch of bout de papier is finally out and awaiting distribution. The new issue looks fantastic and the bout board is also working on plans for a digital edition, hopefully in time for the fall.  I realize that many of you here in the National Capital Region are not going into the office and might therefore miss this important issue of our flagship magazine. If that’s the case, please provide our office with your home mailing address, and we will make sure you receive your copy of bout de papier.

And finally, we remain deeply concerned about the fate of our friend and colleague, Michael Kovrig, after the outcome of his trial in Beijing on March 22. Since December 10, 2018, 858 days ago, he and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor, have been arbitrarily detained in China. We are encouraged by the recent attention the fate of the two Michaels has garnered from the international community, including the U.S. State Department. We hope that increased international pressure will lead to the eventual release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. If you would like to show your solidarity with the two Michaels, please consider downloading and sharing our graphics on your social media channels.

And, as always, for all questions or concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact our executive director, Kim Coles. Kim will connect you to one of our labour relations advisors. For anything else, send an email to info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Also, please remember that we get together for an informal virtual coffee every Wednesday at 1030 Ottawa. If you feel like joining in for a chat, click here. And, in case time zones make it so you can’t join us at the regular time, drop me an e-mail to see if we can set up a session that works better for you.

If you are somewhere where winter has ended and spring has sprung, try to make the most of it and soak up some sunshine. Times are tough, but things are getting better. We’ll chat again on the first Friday in May. Until then, please take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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