COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for October 16, 2020

Dear members,

The 2020 Annual General Meeting is only 10 days away. Given the circumstances created by the pandemic, this year’s meeting will take place virtually via Microsoft Teams. As a result, for the first time in PAFSO’s history, participation in the AGM will be extended to all of our members across the world. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, 26 October at 1600, Ottawa time. If you haven’t already done so, please send an email to with your name and department to let us know you wish to take part in the meeting. We will be sending out invitations and joining instructions next week.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, one of the bigger issues we will address at this year’s AGM is the future of the Full Time Paid Presidency (FTPP). To this end, we are currently holding a membership-wide electronic vote on the issue ahead of the meeting. The voting period began this Tuesday and continues through to next Friday, 23 October at noon, Ottawa time. By now, you should have received a voter information email from Intelivote, the firm that is helping us conduct the vote. This email contains voting instructions as well as a personal identification number required to participate in the vote. If you haven’t seen this email, it is possible that it has landed in a Promotions, Spam or Junk folder. If that’s the case, you should be able to locate it by searching for “intelivote” in your email client. If you can’t locate your voter information email, please contact the office to let them know, they will make sure a new PIN is issued to you as soon as possible.

As I outlined in my last message, due to the situation arising from the pandemic, the Executive Committee has recommended extending the FTPP pilot for one full year, through to December 2021. The Executive Committee felt that it would be unwise to be without the full-time representation of a serving Foreign Service officer at such a crucial time for our profession. Our current environment is changing rapidly from day to day and it is difficult to forecast our needs and resources for the next year. Extending the pilot allows for a comprehensive, professional evaluation of the merits and value of the full-time position, and for a detailed consultation before a second vote on whether and how to make the position a permanent part of PAFSO’s governing structure.

Once you’ve logged on to the voting site, you will be presented with a ballot asking whether you accept the Executive Committee’s recommendation to continue the FTPP beyond 31 December 2020. A “yes” vote leads to a sub-question on methodology, where you will be asked if you accept the recommendation outlined above to extend the pilot, or if you want to make the FTPP permanent effective as soon as possible. A “no” vote means returning to the part-time volunteer model as of the first Executive Committee meeting in November.

Earlier this month, I held two information sessions on the vote. If you are looking for a deeper explanation of what’s at stake, you can watch a recording of our 6 October webinar on the subject here.

Beyond the future of the FTPP, there is a lot of exciting things that will be discussed at this year’s AGM. Among many other things, we will be presenting our strategic plan, our new communications plan, and a roadmap for the relaunch of bout de papier. Relevant documentation for these and other issues, such as the 2021 budget, audited financial statements, etc. can all be found on MyPAFSO using this link. Other relevant documents will also be housed there as they become available.

In the midst of our AGM preparations, we continue to work on the issues that affect you, including the ways in which the pandemic continues to disrupt the work and lives of so many of us at home and abroad. Next week, I will be meeting with GAC to press for greater flexibility in the use of FSD50 and 51 to allow for travel to third countries. Our position is that a blanket policy of limiting travel to within the country of accreditation or back to Canada is no longer justifiable and that travel policies should take into account local and regional conditions as well as employee circumstances.

These issues are extremely complex and our colleagues in HR do not have an easy task. Under these circumstances, I am extremely pleased that GAC’s new Director of Rotational Assignments, Jean-Paul Lemieux, has agreed to speak at our monthly PAFSO Breakfast at 0800 on Tuesday, 10 November. The title of his presentation is “Rotationality in the Time of Covid-19,” and I am sure the discussion will be an interesting one. Please register here to secure your spot.

Last week, I hosted a “PAFSO 101” session aimed at providing new members with a primer on PAFSO, our role, and the services we provide. If you were unable to attend, you can view the session here on our YouTube channel.

I also want to take this time to remind you about the new COVID Alert App. Developed by public service colleagues, the app is designed to notify users if they might have been exposed to the virus in Canada. If you haven’t already done so, please consider installing the app and spreading the word to friends and family. As more and more people who use the app, it becomes more and more effective. Click here to get the download link along with a digital social media toolkit to help spread the word.

Should there be anything you need help with concerning your current situation at work – whether COVID-related or otherwise – do not hesitate to contact our executive director Kim Coles. She will be sure to put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors to assist you. For all other questions or concerns, just send an email to at any time, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

And, I’d love it if you could join me for one of our virtual coffee check-ins. They happen on every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 1030 Ottawa time. Use this new invitation link to join.

And, sadly, as of today, it has been 676 days since our friend and colleague Michael Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor have been imprisonned in China. It’s time to bring them home. Support our efforts to turn those words into action, and consider using our graphics kit to get the message out on social media.

Stay safe, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other. I hope to catch you at the AGM on Monday the 26th. If not, I’ll talk to you again in a few weeks.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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