COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for May 15, 2020

Dear members:

As we head into the Victoria Day long weekend, many provincial jurisdictions in Canada have announced the loosening of restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a rough ride, but through our collective resilience and adaptability, the curve has begun to flatten at home and in many places abroad. We are finally approaching the time where we can contemplate a return to a new normal.

Just yesterday, Treasury Board provided me, along with the presidents of the other federal public service bargaining agents, a glimpse of what that new normal might look like. The Employer assures us that they are committed to an approach that adheres to public health instructions and ensures that services are maintained while putting employee health and safety first. The planning assumption is that easing of restrictions will occur gradually and at different paces depending on geography, functions, physical environments, public infrastructure and individual employee circumstances. Employees whose work can be done remotely will be encouraged to continue to do so in accordance with flexible work provisions and relevant directives. Employees who meet the criteria for vulnerability as defined by public health agencies will be supported to continue remote work whenever possible.

Much as we welcome this overall approach, we are committed to holding the Employer accountable for specifics, including the development of clear criteria for obtaining medical clearance to work, safety of ventilations systems and shared workspaces,  and the provision of masks and personal protective equipment where needed. We will work to ensure that they respect their Occupational Health and Safety obligations, including the requirement to work through OHS policy committees under the Canada Labour Code  both in the NCR and at missions and regional offices.

I reinforced these concerns today at my meeting with GAC, which is in the process of preparing its own return to the workplace plan based on TBS’s broad guidance. PAFSO is working hard to ensuring that GAC’s planning takes the special concerns and needs of the Foreign Service into account.

We are also committed to obtaining as much clarity and certainty as possible as quickly as possible for members who have been most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, including those of you who have been repatriated under FSD64. The GAC headquarters assignment cycle is to be launched today, and while we understand that the lists will continue to change as decisions are made about extensions and other movements abroad, this should help at least some of you make some plans for your career futures.

On a non-COVID-19 note, I was extremely pleased with last Tuesday’s virtual PAFSO Breakfast. For a first of its kind, it was an undeniable success. Close to 100 of you joined in to hear Professor Jamey Essex speak about the continuing effects of the DFAIT-CIDA amalgamation. If you did not have a chance to participate in this lively discussion, you can watch a recording of the meeting here.

Our next breakfast, featuring me and Alexandre Leveque in our roles as GAC’s Co-Champions for Psychological Health, is planned for Tuesday June 9, and I look forward to being able to bring other interesting speakers to you in this form. If you have any suggestions for topics, please let us know by emailing

Though we are all working remotely, our office is always at your service. Feel free to contact executive director Kim Coles with your questions or concerns and she will put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. For any other questions or anything else you might need assistance with, do not hesitate to email at any time. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

And, don’t forget our daily virtual coffee check-ins: every weekday at 1030 and Wednesday evenings at 2000 Ottawa time.

Until next week, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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