COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO

Dear Members:

Since my last message, PAFSO and the rest of the world have been focussed on responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its myriad implications. You have been keeping critical elements of Canada’s international relations on track and repatriating the more than one hundred thousand Canadians who have asked for your help as you care for yourselves and your own loved ones.

PAFSO is working to protect your interests and support your evolving needs. We know that many of you have been working extremely long hours under difficult and uncertain conditions, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that the Employer treats you with fairness, respect and understanding.

Ongoing advocacy and results

We remain in daily contact with the Labour Relations and Human Resources teams at both GAC and IRCC, and I continue to participate in virtual meetings with Treasury Board and the other federal bargaining agents. In the past week, we have achieved results including:

  • The Employer’s articulation of a definition of “critical services” which makes it clear that such a service is one that “if disrupted, would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians, or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada,” as well as a policy that explicitly states that those are the only services that should be performed at the workplace during this crisis period.
  • Direct follow-up by TBS with some managers who were not respecting the work-from-home protocol.
  • GAC’s commitment to respect the hours of work in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, including for those working on Emergency Response Teams and in the Emergency Response Centre.
  • Agreement by Allianz Canada to reimburse overseas claims on the basis of scanned documents sent to pshcp@allianz-assistance.ca. (Please note that you will still be required to send the originals once regular diplomatic bag service resumes.)

Our Labour Relations team, led by Executive Director Kim Coles (kim.coles@pafso.com ) has also been working to support the nearly 1000 PAFSO members and dependents who have arrived in the National Capital Region after being repatriated from post. She and the team are there to assist you with FSD64 and other issues.

Self-isolation and support

I am painfully aware of how challenging it must be to arrive in Ottawa after a long, difficult, and nerve-wracking journey, only to face the required 14-day self-isolation period. However, respecting this provision is not only key to your safety and that of the community, it is the law, and anyone who does not do so could face penalties of up to six months in prison and/or fines of up to $750, 000. Some hotels have also threatened to evict guests if they leave their rooms.

Furthermore, GAC has informed us that employees who do not respect their hotel’s instructions and the self-isolation policy as outlined by PHAC [ https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/diseases-maladies/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home-eng.pdf ] will be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.

For these reasons, we recommend that as difficult as it will be, you adhere strictly to PHAC’s guidelines and your hotel’s policies, even if you have heard of more lenient requirements from other authoritative sources, until you receive specific guidance to the contrary from GAC. If you and your family need help in doing so, I encourage you to  contact the Employee Assistance Program (solution@international.gc.ca or 613-617-6873 for GAC, and 1-800-268-7708 for IRCC) for support.

The future

We understand that everyone has many questions about the future, including what will happen with assignments, postings, and competitions. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that those discussions are taking place right now and nobody knows the answer yet. Please rest assured that PAFSO is engaged with both GAC and IRCC and we are pushing for as much clarity as quickly as possible.

Community check-ins

I also encourage all of you, whether recently repatriated, still working at a mission, working from home, or simply wanting to connect with the community and feel less alone, to join me at one of our informal Virtual Coffee/Check-ins. These sessions take place Monday-Friday at 1030 and Wednesdays at 2000 EDT. You can register for the Monday-Friday sessions here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/vpIrcu-srTwoHakuB-w4zJMVxaDXgj4SNQ and for the Wednesday session here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/vpMpc-6vqj4iSWK8CvJrXeLHod7ktzsugQ

We at PAFSO are doing our best to support you and protect your interests on the rollercoaster ride that is our new reality. Please continue to watch your e-mail and consult our website and myPAFSO for the latest developments.

Stay safe and take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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