COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for September 4, 2020

Dear members,

It’s hard to believe the Labour Day weekend is already here. Where has the summer gone? These last three months have been remarkably busy. A lot of the work has, of course, been related to the pandemic. But much of it has been on pre-COVID commitments, like the strategic review, the Full Time Presidency Pilot, and the relaunch of bout de papier, among others. And now we find ourselves heading into an even busier fall.

When I sent you my first COVID-19 message on 13 March, I told you that we would be implementing our new measures until “at least the end of the month.” Unfortunately, that was an understatement and we will all be dealing with the effects of the pandemic for some time to come. Our Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Tam, has predicted a possible peak in Canadian cases this fall. We have already had more than 125,000 domestic cases, and over 9,000 deaths. The US numbers are staggering, with over 175,000 deaths, and globally, the number of cases has reached 22 million. According to Dr. Tam, local outbreaks could continue until January 2022 and even beyond, leading to further uncertainty for all of us in our work and personal lives.

We are continuing to work with the Employer and the National Joint Council to mitigate the effects of this difficult situation as much as possible. We have been advocating for compassionate and sensible application of 699 leave at both headquarters and at post to assist employees who cannot work due to lack of childcare or other effects of the pandemic. We are pressing IRCC and GAC to adopt remote work policies that recognize that today’s work-from-home arrangements are no longer responding only to employee requests, but instead have been initiated by the Employer. We are fighting to ensure that proper measures and protocols, including provisions for relief and respite,  are in place to put your health and safety first as you do your important work at home and abroad. And, we are bracing for the return of Parliament, when many important political and economic decisions with far-reaching effects on all of us will be made.

We have received positive responses to issues we have raised, and many members are beginning to return to more normal lives at home and abroad. However, we do continue to hear from some of you on issues such as the requirement by some GAC branches to use annual leave for quarantine periods related to approved FSD50 or 51 travel, even when remote work is feasible and authorized by managers at mission. Although we will continue to press GAC to adjust this policy, we remind employees that all elements of the collective agreement, including provisions for call-back and standby pay, continue to apply during the pandemic. If you have been asked to use annual leave while under quarantine  but are expected to monitor communications and respond to urgent tasking requests, you may be eligible to claim some of your time. Please consult the collective agreement on our website and reach out to our Labour Relations team through Executive Director Kim Coles if you need advice on your situation.

All of these issues mean that this year’s Annual General Meeting will be an important one. This year the event will be virtual and streamed online on Monday, October 26 at 1600 Ottawa time. This is a first for PAFSO, and we are still trying to gauge the technical resources required to make it happen. So if you are planning to participate, please send an email with your name and department to agm-aga@pafso-apase.com.

There are six vacant positions on the Executive Committee, and nominations for these are open until September 18. You can get more details on our web site here. We also held a special information session for potential candidates last month. If you were unable to attend, or if you simply want a refresher, you can view a recording of the webinar here.

I am pleased to inform you that the judging of the 2020 PAFSO photo contest has concluded. I have had a sneak peek at their selections, and I am delighted by what our talented photographers were able to capture of 2020. The winners will be notified soon, and shortly after, we will be posting the results on our web site. So, keep an eye out for that.

Speaking of the photo contest, I have just been informed that the 2021 PAFSO calendar has just been sent to the printers. It, along with the latest issue of bout de papier, will be sent out to you shortly. Please reach out to the office to make sure they have your up to date contact information.

The next virtual PAFSO Breakfast is this Tuesday, September 8 at 0800. Blair Cooper, president and CEO of Tradex, will be discussing investing and retirement planning in the age of COVID-19. This is bound to be a very eye-opening talk. You can register for the session here.

As I mentioned last time, we will be putting together an informal session for those who are interested in pursuing complaints to the Public Service Labour Relations Board on the results of GAC’s recent EX01 competition. If you’d like to be part of that discussion, please don’t forget to send me an e-mail before close of business today.

As always, I am continuing with our virtual coffee check-ins on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1030, Ottawa time. Join me if you can.

In the meantime, if there is anything we can help you with concerning your situation at work, please contact our executive director Kim Coles, and she will make sure to get you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. For all other questions, email info@pafso.com at any time, and someone will get back to you shortly.

Please take a moment to remember our friend and colleague Michael Kovrig, who is marking his 634th day in a Chinese prison. He and fellow Canadian, Michael Spavor, remain under difficult conditions, separated from family and friends, with no apparent end in sight.

Finally, for those of you in Canada and the US, please try to enjoy this upcoming long weekend. Labour Day weekend is the last one of the summer. But for all of us, it’s a time to reflect on the achievements of working people – and their unions – and the contributions we have made to this country throughout the years.

We do have a lot to celebrate, but there’s more work to be done. So, take full advantage of this last break before we head into the busy fall season. And know that whatever happens, PAFSO has your back.

Take care of yourselves and each other. We’ll talk again in a few weeks.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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