COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for October 8, 2021

Dear Members,

I’m very happy to be able to open this message on a positive note, by celebrating some truly good news with you. After having spent 1,019 days arbitrarily and unjustly detained in a Chinese prison, Michael Kovrig, and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor, are home! I am so thankful to all those who worked so hard to resolve this issue and bring them back safely onto Canadian soil. And I’m thankful to all those of you who, through your various efforts on social media and in other avenues, joined the families, PAFSO, and Canadians in keeping the spotlight on their plight. The successful resolution of this situation demonstrates the value of both public and private diplomacy and shows that there is always room for hope.

I have been in touch with Michael Kovrig, who has expressed his sincere gratitude for the support of PAFSO members during his ordeal and will be talking to him in more depth when he joins us for next Wednesday’s informal coffee session with members at 1030 Ottawa time on 13 October. You can register here if you’d like to join us. In preparation for this meeting, colleagues Natalie Britton and Charmaine Stanley are organizing a group digital photo, which we hope to share with Michael at the meeting. If you and your colleagues at HQ or missions abroad would like to be part of the photo, please reach out to them as soon as you can for details.

In Covid-related news, we are following very closely developments regarding the mandatory vaccine policy for members of the public service the Employer released earlier this week. Essentially, the policy requires that all employees be fully vaccinated by October 29 or be placed on administrative leave without pay as early as November 15. Accommodations, such as telework, rapid testing, or other increased safety requirements could be made for those with valid human rights exemptions, such as medical or religious reasons, covered under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but the requirements for documenting such exemptions will be strict. The Employer will require written attestation of vaccination from employees. They will also be able to require proof of vaccination at any time and have warned that the consequences for any misrepresentation of vaccination status will be severe.

Yesterday, GAC announced that they are implementing a complementary policy for missions abroad. Starting today, all GAC employees, along with all other workers who are part of the mission network abroad, including IRCC members, will be required to attest to their vaccination status. Any Canada-based staff members on postings who have not done so by October 29, or who are unwilling to be vaccinated, will be returned to Canada and placed on leave without pay as early as November 15.

Along with the other bargaining agents of the core public administration, PAFSO has confirmed that the Employer is within its legal rights in implementing this policy in support of their commitment to maintaining a safe and secure workplace for its employees during a global pandemic. The science is clear, vaccinations, along with masks and distancing, are the most effective ways to decrease the risk of serious illness or death and to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. It’s the right thing to do for ourselves, our co-workers, and our communities.

If you can, and have not yet done so, please get vaccinated as soon as possible. The consequences of a decision not to do so  could be severe,  affecting not just your health and the health of those around you, but also your career, your finances, and even your pension.  However, if you do believe that you have a valid reason for an exemption from the Employer’s mandatory vaccine policy, we encourage you to seek one from the Employer. Should you find yourself placed on leave as a result of this policy, or if you are denied your request for exemption, please get in touch with Executive Director Kim Coles, who will direct your case to one of our Labour Relations Advisers.

There are still many questions about the implications of the policy, and the specifics of how it will roll out, and we are committed to keeping you as up to date as we can. As part of our efforts to understand what we can expect from the next phase of this long battle, I have invited the University of Ottawa’s Professor Raywat Deonandan back to speak to us on Wednesday, 13 October, at 1400 Ottawa time. Please register here to join us live, or view the recording later on our YouTube channel. It will be almost six months to the day since his previous session with us, and I’m looking forward to another lively discussion.

In non-pandemic news, the results of the Full-Time Presidency vote are in. I am pleased to announce that the membership has decided to make a full-time president a permanent part of PAFSO’s governance structure. The Executive Committee’s recommendation was adopted with an overwhelming 84.66% share of the vote. Each of 5 the associated proposed constitutional amendments also passed with similar levels of support, ranging from 81% to 86% of the vote. This is great news for the future of our association, and great news for all of us. Continuing to have a president dedicated full-time to leading PAFSO will make an already effective association and bargaining agent even stronger, even more focused, and in an even better position to serve you, its members.

We will be discussing the implications of this change in our governance structure, along with other wide-ranging issues, at our upcoming 56th AGM on Monday, 25 October, at 1600 Ottawa time.  Other important subjects include the PAFSO group insurance programme, this year’s relaunch of bout de papier, and the 2022 budget. All of the relevant documents and reports for the AGM are housed here, and we will be adding to the core documents between now and the meeting. Please send an email to agm-aga@pafso-apase.com to receive the Microsoft Teams meeting invite and join me for this important meeting.

In that same week, we will also be holding PAFSO’s first virtual Foreign Service Tradecraft Week. This event, which will consist of a week of informal discussions by, for, and about our members, is intended as a way for us to share experiences and advice on how to do our work in the best way possible. Right now, we have sessions planned on organizational and personal leadership; the work of Readiness Programme Managers, International Assistance Officers, and Immigration Officers; what it takes to become a HOM; supporting Indigenous business; Women in Trade, and more. Please watch your e-mail for more details on the schedule, and if you would like to be a panelist, or have an idea for a session, drop me an e-mail

As usual, Fall is a busy time and there’s a lot going on. So, for any and all concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact our Executive Director, Kim Coles. She will put you in contact with one of our labour relations advisors who will be glad to help. If you have questions about anything else, please email info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and that you are able to take time this long weekend to pause and be thankful. I hope to see many of you at our upcoming events and at our AGM on 25 October, and I’ll be in touch again in two weeks. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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