COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for August 21, 2020

Dear members,

It’s been a while since we last had the opportunity to connect. Earlier this month, I managed to take a bit of leave. I hope that most of you were able to do the same. However, now as we find ourselves in the tail end of summer, things are picking up again. We anticipate a very busy fall as we deal with the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to deliver on our ongoing commitments to you.

We understand that the return to the workplace at both IRCC and GAC, and at missions abroad, is going ahead with appropriate adjustments as necessary. FSD64 has now been lifted for 40 missions and some staff have returned to their posts.  GAC is also developing measures to provide relief and respite for staff who have remained at mission under difficult conditions since the pandemic began, and many of you have provided suggestions on those measures to PAFSO through Executive Committee member Iris Lui. We will be communicating those suggestions, which range from additional parcel allowances to proposals for virtual TDs, in more detail to GAC next week. We will also be reaching out to you in the next couple of weeks with a second round of our questionnaire in order to gather more information about your current concerns and the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on you and your families.

This past Monday, PAFSO, along with the other bargaining agents of the National Joint Council, sent a joint letter to the Treasury Board Secretariat to express our frustrations with the lack of clarity or consultation regarding the continued use of 699 leave, which has provided assistance to employees who are unable to work for reasons beyond their control since the beginning of the pandemic. We also submitted comments to Treasury Board on their draft proposal, which would restrict the use of this provision after September where schools are open, requiring employees to use existing sick and other leave provisions before being eligible for 699, and to provide documentation of any elevated risks faced by themselves or members of their households.

PAFSO’s position is that such blanket policies risk violating the Employer’s duty to accommodate employees’ medical and family needs and that requests must be assessed individually. We have also expressed our willingness to enter into other agreements to support our members, and we will continue to press the Employer on these issues. However, in the meantime, if you are currently using 699, you should be prepared for possible requests for documentation in September. If your leave is related to your own medical issues, or those of a family member, you should contact your treating physician to obtain a medical note confirming your situation. If you need assistance, or you believe the leave policy is being applied in an unsafe or discriminatory way, don’t hesitate to reach out to the PAFSO office for assistance.

Your PAFSO team continues to work on the full range of labour relations and other issues, including providing support and advice to members engaged in staffing competitions. This past week, a number of you received the results of GAC’s EX01 competition, which led to a number of questions from successful candidates who are currently at the top of the FS04 pay scale and wondering about the effects of an EX01 appointment on their salaries. Although promotions normally result in an increase in pay, in this instance, the EX01 pay scale is lower than the FS04, so accepting an EX01 offer would result in a reduction. We urge anyone who is considering an appointment to review the letter of offer in detail to ensure you fully understand all the implications.

We have also heard from a number of members who were unsuccessful in the competition and are interested in pursuing complaints before the Public Service Labour Relations Board. If you would like to attend an informal virtual discussion on the subject, please send me an e-mail before 4 September 2020.

As part of PAFSO’s commitment to address the issues of workplace harassment and discrimination, we have partnered with the SEASONOVA group to develop a training program for bystander intervention. The first session took place earlier today, and I hope to be able to share more information on this initiative in the near future. Bystander intervention is an important component in the prevention of harassment and related discrimination, and key to positive workplace transformation.

Our next virtual PAFSO Breakfast at 0800 on 8 September 2020 will feature Blair Cooper, President and CEO of Tradex who will discuss investing and retirement planning in the age of COVID-19. Please register for the session here.

Among other PAFSO projects, our work continues on the revitalization of bout de papier and we have just wrapped up the 2020 photo contest and are beginning to work on the 2021 calendar. In order to make sure you receive both your calendar and the latest issue of bout, please reach out to the office to inform them of any changes in your contact information. You should be receiving these in time for the 26 October AGM.

At our Executive Committee meeting yesterday, we approved the draft budget that will be submitted for approval by the AGM. I’m happy to report that we are projecting a surplus for both this year and next, even with the costs of the Full Time Presidency Pilot (FTPP). In light of all the uncertainties caused by COVID-19, we also agreed to recommend to members that we extend the pilot for one more year. A full membership vote will take place at the end of September, and details on our proposal, including a Q&A session, will follow soon.

More details on the AGM can be found here. If you are planning to participate, please send an email to with your name and department, so we can get an idea of how many people we need to accommodate with our virtual platform.

Finally, nominations remain open until 18 September for the 6 vacant positions on this year’s Executive Committee. If you were unable to attend our August information session for potential candidates, you can view a recording of the webinar here.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns about your individual work situation, please contact our executive director Kim Coles. She will gladly put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. And for all other questions, just send an email to at any time.

And, we continue with our virtual coffee check-ins on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1030, Ottawa time. I hope you can join in.

Try to make the most of these last long and lazy days of summer. Fall is just around the corner, and new challenges are sure to follow.

We’ll talk again on the first Friday in September. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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