COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for May 21, 2021

Dear members,

Over the course of the past two weeks, our news cycle in Canada has been dominated by the stories of the mass vaccinations going on in Canada and around the globe. Although there is a lot of good news, including the fact that nearly 40% of all Canadians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, there have also been mixed messages like the pause in the use of the the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Some of this confusion has been mirrored in the communications concerning the Employer’s vaccination rollout. Although vaccinations for employees at headquarters will be administered through the province, those posted abroad, their dependents and locally-engaged staff are the responsibility of the Employer. We realize that this represents a gargantuan logistical challenge, involving the coordination of many agencies, departments and jurisdictions and the fact that vaccine doses have already been delivered to 66 of 129 missions, with 49 posts having access to in-country services, is very good news. The hope is that before the end of May, vaccine doses will have been delivered to approximately 80% of all missions. Now that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for children aged 12 to 18, the Employer is working with PHAC and Health Canada on developing a strategy to immunize dependents but does not yet have concrete plans to share.

We are also looking for guidance for those of you about to go on posting who may have already received your first dose from your provincial health authority. Again, there is no strategy in place at the moment, but the Task Force will be working on putting together some guidelines. So, as always, we continue to press the Employer for clarity, and we will be sure to share with you any information we get as soon as we get it. However, as every mission is different and will require its own solution, your missions and geographic management are still the best information source at this time for your specific concerns.

In recent weeks, I have been contacted by several members who are reporting that their Occupational Health and Safety committees at mission are not active. I raised this issue at Wednesday’s National Labour Management Consultative Committee and asked what kind of support and resources are available to assist missions in getting these groups up and running so they can fulfill their responsibilities as we begin to return to the workplace. The Employer is going to look into the matter and is asking for our cooperation to help identify those missions where this is the case. Since occupational health and safety is a shared labour-management responsibility, this is also an opportunity for members to get involved by inquiring about the activities and membership of your local committees and lending your support if needed. If you are at a mission where there are concerns about your OHS committee, please let us know by sending an email to info@pafso.com.

Not all of our work is related to the pandemic. For example, in our continuing effort to strive for greater equality and inclusivity, PAFSO has engaged a Policy Analyst to conduct an intersectional (GBA+) analysis of our current collective agreement. Victoria Epton, a student at the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs will be spending the summer reviewing and assessing the current operating environment for the FS group and identifying any differential impacts on the various segments of our membership. Victoria’s analysis will be key to our future advocacy, policy and negotiating decisions. It will help to ensure that we are addressing all gender and inclusivity considerations in the best ways possible. We look forward to sharing her findings with you later this summer.

Seasonova Consulting has also finished its evaluation of the Full-Time Presidency Pilot (FTPP). I’m happy to report that they found that the FTPP has fulfilled its terms of reference and that the vast majority of members believe PAFSO has benefitted from the full-time position and want to see it become a permanent part of our structure. However, there are still a number of questions, including the final costings and required constitutional amendments, that need to be examined before the ExCom can present a final recommendation for your vote. Over the next couple of months, we will be setting up further member consultations and preparing the decision package so you can make an informed decision on PAFSO’s future.

Last week, ongoing Virtual Breakfast series hosted a discussion on creative networking during the pandemic led by Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol of Canada. For those who were unable to participate, we have uploaded a recording of the session to our YouTube channel. You can watch it here.

We’re expecting a number of new FS01s to be confirmed as PAFSO members over the next couple of months. At our next PAFSO Breakfast on Tuesday June 8 at 0800, Ottawa time, we’ll host a roundtable discussion on what we wish we’d known when we joined. If you’d like to share some of the wisdom you have gained over the years, please fill in this form and consider joining me as a panelist. Click here to register for the breakfast.

I’m also happy to report that the second issue of the renewed bout de papier is nearing completion and should be coming out next month. If you haven’t yet received your copy of the March issue, please contact the office to make sure we have your correct home mailing address. I’m so pleased to see bout de papier continuing with its decades-long legacy. It’s an important showcase for our profession, and it depends on contributions from you, our members. If you have an experience you want to share, an opinion you want to bring forward or a story you want to tell, please get in touch with our managing editor, Eric Schallenberg, to discuss the details.

And, as always, for anything concerns pertaining to your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact Kim Coles, our executive director. She will put you in touch with a member of our labour relations team. For anything else, just email info@pafso.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

I’m on leave next week, so we will not have our usual Wednesday coffee chat. However, if you would like to join us the following Wednesday at 1030, Ottawa time, you can do so by clicking here. In case that time not convenient for you, let me know by e-mail and we’ll try to set something up that works better after I’m back.

From the very beginning, information has been key to navigating this pandemic. For over a year, the world has been reacting and adapting to an ever-changing set of circumstances. And, of course, as new facts come to light, messaging, policies and directives will change. Since March last year, we have committed ourselves to keeping an open line of communication with you, our members, in an effort to bring you the clearest, most accurate and timeliest information we can gather. With this in mind, we’ll chat again in two weeks’ time.

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

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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