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

Dear members:

Yesterday, we marked the 100th day since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, triggering the range of public health measures that have affected every one of us. Canada has recently surpassed 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

At the same time, Canada has joined many other parts of the world in beginning the gradual re-opening of the economy. From parks to museums to even restaurant and bar patios, things seem to be returning to a new state of normal.

In fact, at a meeting with IRCC last week, PAFSO learned that concrete return-to-work plans are expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks. As with GAC, working from home will be encouraged for those who are able to do so. However, it is expected that 25% of the workforce will be returning to their offices.

We also learned that both departments are developing the process by which employees currently identified as medically vulnerable can request a re-examination of their vulnerable status. We understand that IRCC is in communication with GAC who are looking at similar a solution, but that the lead in this matter remains Health Canada, who will be providing the assessment service.

Although IRCC has decided to make the determination on which employees return to post based on operational priorities, rather than medical status, we want to ensure that those members identified as “vulnerable” are not disproportionately identified as occupying lower priority positions. If you are an IRCC member who believes that this policy is being applied to you in a discriminatory way, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Executive Director, Kim Coles, for advice on your particular situation.

We remain deeply concerned about the human rights implications of GAC’s decision to terminate the postings of officers and dependents identified as vulnerable without prior medical assessment, and to limit the career opportunities of broad categories of members for an indefinite period. I raised the issue again at today’s meeting with GAC’s senior HR and Labour Relations teams, and have also formally escalated the matter to Treasury Board.

We do recognize that there may be bona fide medical reasons why some of our members may not be able to return to post, be posted, or travel for temporary duty until the pandemic situation is stabilized but those reasons must be determined by a qualified medical professional according to a clear and transparent set of criteria. At yesterday’s meeting, the PAFSO Executive Committee agreed that this issue should remain a priority both for its immediate impact upon large segments of our membership and for the dangerous precedent that could be set for all of us.

The ExCom also discussed the continuing need to address racism in our workplaces and beyond.  Our Executive Vice President, John Gosal, has agreed to serve as our focal point on these issues and will be pulling together a small working group to discuss how to leverage our ongoing anti-discrimination work and determine other ways we can make a difference. If you are interested in taking part in the working group, or simply want to share your views or experiences, please send him an e-mail.

We also continue work on our pre-COVID-19 commitments to you. Yesterday, the ExCom agreed to submit our draft Strategic Plan to members for consultation in the lead-up to our October 25 AGM. Please take a moment to visit the Wiki at myPAFSO and make your comments on the draft before July 8. Details on a virtual focus group will follow soon.

In other non-COVID-19 news, I’m pleased to announce that PAFSO will be launching it’s 10th annual photo contest soon. Please watch your inboxes for the call for entries with all the details, it should be coming in the next week or so. I look forward to seeing the visions of 2020 you have captured through your photographs.

As always, do not hesitate to reach out to executive director Kim Coles with your questions or concerns. 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 info@pafso.com at any time, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

And don’t forget our virtual coffee check-ins: now being held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at1030 and Wednesday evenings at 2000, Ottawa time.

Finally, I also want to recognize that this week is National Public Service Week. On issues ranging from our wide-ranging COVID-19 response to our valiant UN Security Council campaign, PAFSO members have demonstrated dedication to providing essential services to Canadians at home and abroad. We should all be very proud of the work that we do.

Take care of yourselves and each other. We’ll talk more in two weeks.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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