COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for July 31, 2020

Dear members,

As we approach the “dog days” of summer, things have not slowed down for many of us. We at PAFSO have certainly had a busy few months between working with the Employer to navigate the pandemic, moving forward on our pre-COVID commitments, and dealing with our regular business on the labour relations and professional association sides.

This message is arriving a week early since I will be taking 4–7 August as leave, and I wanted to update you on our efforts before I go:

  • Discussions on the reintegration to the workplace both at home and abroad are continuing, and we received an update on GAC’s plans at yesterday’s Human Resources Labour Management Consultation Committee (HRLMCC). The pilot phase of the return to work at 125 Sussex began last Tuesday and will end next week. After that, lessons learned will be incorporated and the next phase, which will involve the return of designated branches, will begin. Work from home remains the default and managers are now consulting employees to determine who is able and willing to come back to the office. Everyone designated to go back will be notified at fourteen days in advance by their managers and branch coordinators. GAC is also putting measures in place to provide ergonomic and other support to those who will remain working from home since it now appears these measures could be in place until the end of 2020 and beyond. We understand that IRCC is implementing a similar plan.
  • Timetables for the return to the workplace abroad are more complex and varied since they depend on a wide range of local factors, but FSD64 has now been lifted for 27 missions and staff are beginning to travel back. Health Canada’s expedited medical evaluation system seems to be working and we understand that most staff are being authorized to return. We also understand that school and tuition fees are being authorized on a case-by-case basis depending on the plans for the family’s return to mission. Although this remains a difficult process and there will no doubt be glitches as the system works through the many issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PAFSO team if you feel that your individual case is being handled in a way that is discriminatory or unsafe.
  • The Employer also recognizes that many staff who remained at post have been working under difficult conditions and that the resumption of business operations is creating additional pressure for them. Although it may seem that those at mission have been forgotten in the rush to return colleagues from Canada, this sequencing is necessary to maintain the operational continuity that will allow leave and departures.  GAC is pursuing measures such as increased diplomatic bag services and streamlining of taskings to make life easier and has agreed to a meeting with PAFSO Human Resources, and the Platform Branch to discuss practical solutions. If you have suggestions for such measures, please send them to the attention of Executive Committee member Iris Liu at by close of business Ottawa time on Monday, 10 August.
  • Earlier this week, you should have received the notice for PAFSO’s Annual General Meeting. Scheduled for Monday, October 26, this year’s AGM will be virtual and streamed online for the first time. There are six vacancies to fill on the Executive Committee, and nominations are now open. Please check our website for all the details.
  • An information and discussion session for interested candidates will take place at the PAFSO breakfast on August 11 at 0800.The session should provide a good overview of the work and responsibilities of the Executive Committee – even for those who are not thinking of running. Click here to register.
  • The draft of the Strategic Plan that will be submitted to the AGM as one of the deliverables of the Full-Time Presidency Pilot remains open for comments until close of business in Ottawa on 10 August. If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to visit the wiki and share your views on the priorities that will shape our Association between now and 2023.
  • Please don’t forget that our annual photo contest submission deadline is coming up next Friday, August 7. If you have some great images to share, please visit our website for all the submission details.
  • For our International Assistance colleagues, the FSIA members survey is open for another week. So, please make sure to spend a few minutes to tell us a little bit about yourselves, your concerns at work and what you expect from PAFSO as your union and professional association. Click here to complete the survey.
  • Our Task Force on the revitalization of bout de papier is moving ahead and developing some very interesting plans to make our flagship magazine more modern, relevant, and accessible. If you want to make sure to receive your copy of the latest issue, as well as our 2021 calendar, please reach out to the office if your contact information has changed. We’re planning to get these to you in time for the 26 October AGM.

Executive Vice President John Gosal will cover for me as President when I take next week off. If you have any urgent issues, you can reach him at  And, as always, if you have any questions or concerns about your individual work situation, please feel free to contact our executive director Kim Coles. She will gladly put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. For all other questions, you can send an email to at any time.

I hope that all of you are able to take some downtime as well, even if you are not able to get away as much as you would like. With all we’ve lived through these last few months, it’s more important than ever to relax and recharge as much as possible.

We’ll talk again on August 21. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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