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

Dear Members,

I’ve mentioned it before, this is going to be a busy fall for PAFSO. I’m about to set off for a few weeks of leave, but before I go, I just want to catch you up on everything that’s been going on.

First, I have a bit of good news to share. I know that many of you at post are exhausted after months of working under these pandemic conditions and would benefit from some well-deserved travel. On Monday, it was announced that based on the decline in infection rates in many countries, as well as the success of the Employer’s vaccination campaigns, Deputy Ministers have approved the reinstatement of FSD 50 to destinations deemed safe from a COVID-19 standpoint. If you wish to take advantage of the eased restrictions, you can apply for FSD 50 through the FSD Portal, where you will be asked to provide a detailed itinerary listing countries/cities you plan to travel to. As with everything related to this pandemic, all this is subject to a number of conditions and could change as the pandemic situation evolves. Your FSD Client Advisors should be the first point of contact for all questions related to travel and coverage of expenses. Please address your questions to them directly.

Many of you have contacted me, and the PAFSO office, with concerns about the current relocation season. Many of you have faced delays with posting confirmations, medicals, passports, visas, travel advances and arrangements, movers, and pretty much everything else. Although we empathize with our colleagues who are working to manage more than fifty percent more moves this year than last, PAFSO and the other bargaining agents are concerned about GAC’s priorities in this situation. Yesterday, we met with the assignments and FSD divisions to make our case for a more client-centric approach that mitigates pressure on the employee and allows for flexibility where it makes sense. Our messages seemed to be well-received, but anyone who is experiencing unreasonable difficulties should contact Executive Director Kim Coles for assistance.

As we continue to move through this pandemic, the work of the National Joint Council’s COVID-19 Taskforce is focussing on the upcoming return to the workplace. During a presentation on Tuesday, PCO stressed how they were looking to extract lessons from the last 18 months of operation in order to inform a safe and sustainable return to the workplace. Not a lot of details were offered at this point, but a great deal of emphasis was placed on involving the bargaining agents in the development of a strategy. Many questions were raised concerning the adequacy of ventilation systems, how the various mental health impacts of the pandemic will be dealt with, and what special consideration will be given for those employees working abroad. We expect to get more concrete information from the Employer ahead of our next meeting in mid-August. I will update you more details as soon as they come through.

As you know, this year’s AGM will be focused on how we move forward on the establishment of a full-time, paid presidency for the association. We are working on a formal recommendation which will be put to a membership-wide vote in September, ahead of the AGM. In preparation for this, we have begun the process of consultating with the membership have already. Our first session was held last Friday, and the July PAFSO Breakfast, held earlier this week, was devoted to this issue. You can view the deck from these sessions here, and find a full set of the latest proposals and related documents on our consultation wiki on myPAFSO. The next consultation session is planned for 11 August at 1600, Ottawa time. If you are interested in participating in the discussion, click here.

Also in the works is our 2021 triennial survey. Every three years we reach out to our members with a comprehensive survey designed to get a better sense of who you are, what issues are you facing, how you feel about your employment situation, and how you feel about PAFSO and its work.  In previous years, we had undertaken this work in house with reasonably good results. This year, however, given that there are more of us and to maximize the impact of such a large undertaking, we have contracted an outside firm to conduct this research. We are currently working with their team to develop this year’s questionnaire, and you can expect it to be launched in early October. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.

At the same time, our summer Policy Analyst, Victoria Epton, is continuing her work on the GBA+ analysis of our Collective Bargaining Agreement in preparation for next year’s negotiations. She has already met with a number of members from equity-seeking groups to discuss areas where they might be disproportionately affected by particular provisions in our contract, and would like to get more input. If you are a member of an equity seeking group, and are willing to take part in an interview or a focus group, please send an e-mail in the official language of your choice to victoria.epton@pafso.com with your contact info, the issues you would like to discuss, and whether you would prefer an interview or a focus group.

I also want to remind everyone that the 2021 photo contest launched a few weeks back and will be accepting submissions through Friday, August 13. This year’s contest theme is “The Next Normal” and is asking members to submit photos of what they are seeing emerge as we begin to recover from this pandemic. You can learn more about all the contest details here. I was amazed by last year’s winners and look forward to seeing what’s in store for us this year.

And finally, I am pleased to announce that bout de papier has a new Editor in Chief. Ms. Lillian Thomsen has graciously accepted to take over the reins from Daniel Livermore. Not only did he resurrect the magazine, but he infused it with a new energy and with an eye toward the future. Part of this was finally building a digital platform for the publication. Going forward, select features from each issue will be made available online at boutdepapier.ca. Please take a moment and check it out. I want to thank Dan for all his hard work setting a new foundation for our flagship publication. And I am excited to see where bout is headed under Lillian’s leadership. Putting together a magazine of this calibre is no small task, and they can always use an extra set of hands. So, if you are interested in contributing to bout de papier, joining the editorial board, or helping out in any other way, please send an email to bout’s Managing Editor, Eric Schallenberg.

As always, if you have any concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact our Executive Director, Kim Coles. Kim will make sure to put you in contact with one of our labour relations advisors. Just email info@pafso.com if anything else comes up, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

This busy summer is turning into a busy fall. I’m going to be taking the next few weeks off so I can recharge. I hope you all get the chance to do the same.

We’ll be in touch again the third week of August, when I get back. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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