COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for May 22, 2020

Dear members:

I am happy to report that, for the first time since I began to send you these weekly updates in mid-March, I do not have “breaking news” to report from my dealings with TBS, IRCC, or GAC. Although this is good news, PAFSO has still been busy working on your behalf.

Last week, I mentioned that Treasury Board had begun to discuss what the “next normal” might look like with the presidents of the federal bargaining agents who make up the National Joint Council. This week, we received some more insight into the planning process and the guidance that TBS is preparing to provide to individual departments on the eventual return to the workplace. Asymmetrical approaches will be normal, depending on the epidemiological situations and public health guidance based on available data, but these approaches will be based on clear and consistent principles.

PAFSO, along with the other bargaining agents, continues to press the Employer for specifics at the federal level and with respect to individual workplaces. For example, we are seeking to ensure that there are clear guidelines for employees who find themselves in an unsafe environment that is not controlled by the Employer (such as a host government facility abroad). Our Occupational Safety and Health lead, Suehila Elkateb, is front and centre on this file at GAC, as is Randy Orr, our Immigration Vice President, at IRCC. Please do not hesitate to reach out to them either directly or through the PAFSO office if you have specific concerns about what is going on in your department.

Now that both IRCC and GAC have finalized many extensions abroad and have begun to confirm other postings and assignments, our Labour Relations team has been helping many of you with your particular situations. We have also begun to hear from those of you who are facing difficulties due to  travel restrictions including the current freeze on FSD15 authorizations and we are pressing for flexibility in response to individual circumstances. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our Executive Director Kim Coles if you would like to be put in touch with one of our Labour Relations Advisors.

PAFSO is also moving forward on a number of our pre-COVID19 commitments to you. Yesterday, the Executive Committee endorsed the Strategic Communications Plan. We also tabled the first draft of the overall Strategic Plan that will be consulted over the summer and presented to members at our 26 October Annual General Meeting. We are in the process of figuring out how we will conduct the AGM virtually, in order to allow more of you to participate in this key decision-making body.

Finally, I am happy to report that after a long delay, the latest issue of bout de papier has been completed and is now being prepared for printing and distribution in July. We have decided that bout is long overdue for a comprehensive revamp and rebout (pun intended) and will now be placing the magazine on hiatus while we prepare for a relaunch in early 2021. If you would like to take part in a summer working group on the redesign of this Foreign Service icon, please drop me an e-mail before 29 May.

In the meantime, please 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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