COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for July 3, 2020

Dear members:

I hope you all had a chance to enjoy some downtime on and around Canada Day. With all that’s been going on, it’s more important than ever to be able to spend some quality time with friends and family.

This week was fairly quiet due to the mid-week holiday. Treasury Board has reduced the frequency of our meetings to once a week, and GAC postponed our weekly meeting until next week.  As a result, there have been no major developments with respect to return-to-the-workplace strategy, but our Occupational Health and Safety experts continue to work on the details of the reintegration plans at headquarters and at missions abroad.

We continue to press for clarity on other important issues, including the use of 699 leave, and the Employer has committed to issuing a comprehensive policy on this issue before September. We are also engaged in discussions on the fate of members at both GAC and IRCC who have been repatriated under FSD64 for reasons of medical vulnerability with a year or more left in their postings. Our position remains that no member who wishes to return to mission should be transitioned from FSD64 to FSD15 before they have received a proper medical evaluation by a qualified professional, even if that takes longer than the six months normally provided for under FSD64. If you are in this situation, and receive a PCF notifying you of a change in status to FSD15 without such an evaluation, please contact Executive Director Kim Coles immediately to discuss options including possible complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act. While we will not hesitate to pursue the formal recourse available to us, we remain hopeful that we can arrive at a solution before damage is done to our members. As soon as we have something concrete to report back on, we will let you know.

In the meantime, your PAFSO team is busy on a number of non-COVID issues, including the current FS03 competition at GAC. Although we are monitoring the process, it is important to remember that staffing falls outside the scope of our Collective Agreement, so our only formal recourse is to support individual applicants in following  the grievance process outlined by the Public Service Labour Relations Board to the end.  We recommend that you pursue informal discussions at each phase of the competition and request accommodations as needed. If you would like assistance in framing your discussions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our labour relations team for advice.

It also saddens me to remind you that it has been 572 days since our friend and colleague, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China. In an effort to raise awareness of his plight, and that of fellow Canadian Michael Spavor, PAFSO has put together some graphics for us to use in our social media. This graphics kit includes a profile and cover photo, as well as a shareable graphic for you to post to your timelines and encourage others to amplify. I’d also like to ask that when chairing a meeting, you open the meeting by recognizing his detention and noting that “today marks XXX days since our PAFSO colleague Michael Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor have been detained in China.” It’s important that we keep their situation top of mind. We realize that the issue is complicated, but we just want our friend and colleague home now.

We are continuing to move forward on our pre-pandemic commitments to you. The Task Force that will oversee the renewal and relaunch of bout de papier has had its initial meeting last week. Ambitious goals are being set under some demanding timelines, but, given the value of bout de papier to PAFSO – both as a communications channel and as a collective memory for our profession – the hard work will be well worth it in the end. I will keep you up to date with developments as they unfold.

Work is also going ahead on the new Strategic Plan. As promised in my last message, a time has been set for a virtual focus group on Wednesday, July 15, at 1230 PM EST. If you are interested in participating, please register here. A draft of the plan is available for you to review on MyPAFSO.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, as part of PAFSO’s continuing effort to shine a spotlight on the issue of systemic racism in the workplace, our upcoming July 14 PAFSO Breakfast will feature Richard Sharpe of the Federal Black Employees Caucus. Richard will be sharing with us the lived experience of black racism in the federal public service. He will bring forward concrete ideas for how people in positions of leadership, as well as general employees, can be better allies. And, most importantly for PAFSO, he will discuss how unions can better use their power in the fight against racism. I hope you will be able to join us for this very important discussion. Please click here to sign up for the Zoom session.

Finally, PAFSO has launched its tenth annual photo contest. You can read more about this year’s theme, Vision 2020, and all the entry details on our website. I look forward to seeing what the shutterbugs among us capture through their lenses this year.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can email our executive director Kim Coles. She will gladly put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. And for anything else you might need assistance with, please contact at any time, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

And please remember that our virtual coffee check-ins are on a new schedule. They are now being held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1030. Although we have decided to stop the regular Wednesday evening sessions for the summer months, I’d be happy to set up a call for anyone who would like to attend one. If you would like me to hold a session, please drop me an e-mail by close of business Ottawa time the Tuesday before you would like to chat.

Enjoy the beautiful summer weather and make sure to take care of yourselves and each other. We’ll talk more in two weeks.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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