COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for June 18, 2021

Dear members,

For over a year now, PAFSO, alongside the other bargaining agents of the National Joint Council, has been pushing the Employer to provide a hazard pay to recognize the dangerous and difficult work performed by our members who are working on the front lines through 15 months of this world-wide crisis. Earlier this week, at the latest meeting of the COVID-19 Task Force and in the middle of Public Service Week, the Employer announced that they will not be implementing any form of hazard pay on the grounds that the public health measures in place in federal workplaces mean that such measures are not warranted.

We disagree.The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented danger through which many of our colleagues have pressed on in the service of Canada and Canadians. Does the Employer not recognize the dangerous nature of our work, especially in places like Delhi, where the ravages of the virus are well-documented? The fact that members of the Armed Forces recently deployed to assist with the pandemic in long-term care facilities were paid a hazard allowance, yet the federal government refuses to recognize the work of its own public health, food inspection, correctional service, or foreign service officers compounds our disappointment. Even the private sector has moved to recognize the added dangers their employees are taking on by implementing hazard pay allowances in similar circumstances. We will continue to press the Employer to document and explain why its own workers do not deserve this respect and recognition.

If there’s anything the last 15 months have brought to light, it’s the dedication and hard work of our members at home or abroad. From those involved in the repatriations, to those who stayed behind at mission, to those who seamlessly transitioned to working from home with no perceptible interruption to the services they deliver, Canada’s professional Foreign Service rose to the occasion. Just yesterday, the four recipients of the 2021 PAFSO Awards were announced. In lieu of they usual gala evening, the Awards Committee set out to produce an amazing video that captures the spirit of previous ceremonies. In case you missed their email from yesterday, here is the link to the video. Be sure to take a few moments over the weekend to watch it and take pride in this great profession of ours.

I’d like a moment here to congratulate the recipients of the 2021 PAFSO Awards.

Congratulations to Francis Huot, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Consulate and Trade Office in Auckland. An experienced Trade Commissioner, Francis quickly realized that the Maori economy was growing faster than any other sector of the New Zealand economy. He saw not only a growing market, but a way to tap into the under-represented area of direct Indigenous to Indigenous trade. Organizing various business exchange programs and delegations, Francis Huot became Canada’s go-to person within the Maori business community and the New Zealand government.

Stéfanie Bergeron is an entry level foreign service officer serving her first assignment abroad in Bamako, Mali. But within months, she found herself an acting FS-3, working as Program Manager, helping to repatriate a Canadian kidnapping victim, working through the evacuation of non-essential staff due to the pandemic, and serving as Canada’s Chargée d’Affaires in the ambassador’s absence just days after the August coup d’état. Rarely in the history of the department has a junior officer served in such a senior position under such difficult circumstances. Congratulations go to Stéfanie Bergeron for her outstanding diplomatic leadership and for being an exceptional foreign service officer.

From email updates to personal calls and video conferences, Robin Crowders often daily briefings over the past 15 months have kept everyone on her IRCC team current, connected and calm. And even when there were literally hundreds online in a video call run from her basement, somehow, she made every single person feel cared for and supported. Her careful, empathic listening and above all her humanity and honesty inspired trust among her team. Her compassion and kindness, her wisdom and reassuring care has been a phenomenal service to IRCC and to Canada. Congratulations to Robin Crowder, Assistant Director, Workforce Management Division, IRCC, Ottawa.

And finally, congratulations go to Phedra Moon Morris, Head of Aid, Canadian High Commission to Bangladesh. Within days of her arrival to Dhaka, one million Rohingya refugees were surging across the border from Myanmar. Phedra Moon quickly pivoted, adjusted to this exodus of people fleeing genocide and became their ally in a humanitarian crisis. With her vast network spanning many missions and countries, Phedra Moon brought the right people together to create innovative solutions and to build consensus. She made recommendations, not only in support of Ottawa’s response to the crisis, but also to the foundation of Canada’s three-year strategy, positioning Canada at the forefront of the international response.

That’s just a synopsis from me. You should really check out the 2021 Awards video to hear our colleagues share their stories in their own words. Truly amazing work done by truly amazing people. Congratulations to all who were nominated this year – the judges had an extremely difficult task in choosing among you.

I also want to take a minute to let you know that the 2021 PAFSO Photo Contest is launching next week.Please watch your inboxes for the call for entries with all the details. 2020’s submissions surpassed everybody’s expectations. I look forward to seeing what you all have in store for this year.

Last week, the PAFSO Virtual Breakfast series hosted a roundtable discussion with several of our new and soon-to-be new FS01 colleagues on what we wish we had known when we first joined the Foreign Service. In case you missed it and want to reminisce about the wisdom and knowledge we have gained over the years, you can click here to watch a recording of the session. Our next breakfast will take place on 13 July and will feature a discussion of the issues surrounding the establishment of the Full-Time Presidency. You can register for that session here.

And finally, I’d like to recognize that this coming Monday, June 21, is National Indigenous Peoples Day. In light of the recent tragic news, and in the framework of our continuing anti-racism activities, PAFSO recognizes its shared responsibility to implement the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As I mentioned last time, Call to Action number 57 mandates education “on the history of Aboriginal Peoples, including the legacy of the residential schools,” and skills-based training on anti-racism, human rights, intercultural competency and conflict resolution. The PAFSO Professional Committee has undertaken to integrate these elements into many of our upcoming professional development activities and will be meeting in the next couple of weeks to discuss next steps. Please let me know if you would be interested in helping the Committee with this important work.

For any concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact Kim Coles, our executive director. She will make sure to put you in contact with one of our labour relations advisors. For all other matters, just email and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

For those looking for an informal chat, we still get together for a virtual coffee every Wednesday at 1030, Ottawa time. Click here if you feel like joining in. And, in case time zones make that hour inconvenient, drop me an e-mail and I’ll see if I can set something up that works better for you.

It’s already shaping up to be a busy summer, and it looks like it’s going to be a busy fall. Take advantage of any downtime you can afford. It’s important to recharge from time to time. We’ll chat again in a couple of weeks.

Until then, take care of yourselves and of each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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