Update from the President of PAFSO for December 1, 2023

Dear members,

This will be just a quick update on a number of important issues that are keeping us busy these days.

Impacts of the public sector strikes in Quebec
I know that many of you in the NCR have been impacted by the over 420,000 public sector workers who have embarked on a series of rolling strikes in Quebec. The resulting interruptions in school, health care and social services across the province can particularly affect those of you with children or dependents.

If the closure of schools, daycares, or other care facilities are making it difficult for you to work your regularly scheduled hours, as always, we recommend that you discuss your situation with your manager. If you are unable to make alternative custody or care arrangements, you may want to discuss more flexible working arrangements, such as flexible work hours or telework, for the duration of the strike. You may also want to consider requesting leave in accordance with our collective agreement, such as annual or compensatory leave, to help meet your obligations.

Because the possibility of this industrial action was known, paid leave for family obligations in the event of unforeseeable closure of a school or daycare service (code 471) is not applicable in this case. And also, management has indicated that code 699 leave cannot be used in this circumstance.

If you feel that your requests for leave or for flexible accommodations have been unfairly denied, please let us know. In the meantime, we hope that both sides will find ways to return to the bargaining table soon.

Follow up on the PSHCP Canada Life fiasco
A few weeks ago, I reported back to you on actions we had taken in the face of the fiasco resulting from the Public Service Health Care Plan’s (PSHCP) transition to Canada Life.

Since then, PAFSO joined up with Dany Richard, ACFO president and NJC co-chair, and the heads of the other bargaining agents of the Core Public Administration to co-write a letter to Minister Anita Anand, President of the Treasury Board, urging the government to hold Canada Life accountable for the innumerable problems this fiasco is causing to public servants.

The letter specifically calls on the Honourable Anita Anand to extend all legacy periods from December 31, 2023, to July 1, 2024, and more specifically, to defer changes to mandatory generic drug substitutions, compound drugs, and prior authorization until the claims process and overall transition have stabilized.

While the situation with the PSHCP is hard enough for our members based here in Canada, for members abroad it gets even worse. Without access to provincial health care coverage, members overseas rely on the PSCHP for their primary health care needs. MSH International, the health care provider Canada Life has appointed for Canadians serving abroad, has also been unable to provide adequate service.

As presidents of two of the unions representing employees serving abroad, PIPSC president Jennifer Carr and I followed up with another letter to Minister Anand highlighting the specific situation facing those of you who must depend on MHS. We drew her attention to the fact that MHS’s shortcomings are causing particular hardships to those without access to provincial healthcare while on posting. The bottom line is that it was the Government of Canada’s decision to make the transition, so it must hold both Canada Life and its subcontractor MSH International accountable for the many problems our members are facing.

The PSHCP is essential to the health and wellbeing of our members and their dependents, especially for those posted abroad. This is why we will continue to advocate on this issue for you, as this has gone on for far too long and action must be taken swiftly. I will be raising the MSH problems in particular with GAC’s deputy ministers at our upcoming National Labour Management Consultative Committee meeting, in the hope that we can work together to get better support for those of you serving Canada abroad.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments as the issue unfolds.

Deborah Chatsis Indigenous Scholarship: Another Giving Tuesday success!
I am pleased to report that, once again, this past Giving Tuesday was a resounding success for contributions to the AMBCANADA/PAFSO Deborah Chatsis Indigenous Scholarship in Foreign Affairs. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this very important initiative.

Last year, we managed to make the scholarship an endowed, permanent scholarship fund. This year, we are hoping that your generosity will allow us to increase the number of scholarships awarded in Deborah’s name. We’re still waiting for all the numbers to come in, but we’ll certainly let you know once we get the totals.

Although Giving Tuesday has passed, contributions to the scholarship are still very much welcome and fully eligible for 2023 tax receipts. Click here to learn more about the fund and how you can help ensure that Indigenous people are properly represented in Canada’s Foreign Service.

PAFSO Breakfast with Roxanne Dubé on Tuesday, December 12 at 0900 EST
This month’s PAFSO Breakfast promises to be a special one as I will be hosting our former GAC colleague, Roxanne Dubé. Roxanne will be telling us about her new book Understanding at Last/Enfin Comprendre. It tells the story of how she rebuilt her life after one of her sons was killed and the other was charged with felony murder while she served as Canada’s Consul General in Miami in 2015. Roxanne’s journey has led to a deeper connection and a more authentic relationship between her and her son. Join us on Tuesday, December 12 at 0900 EST for a fascinating and uplifting story of transformation. Click here to register for the session.

If you would like to buy Roxanne’s book, you can find it at Books on Beechwood and at Bouqin Bec both in English and in French.

Seeking volunteers for new Social Subcommittee
In response to popular demand for more opportunities for members to connect with each other, we’re setting up a new PAFSO Social Subcommittee, under the auspices of the Professional Committee. Our GAC colleague Michael Strasser has agreed to take on the lead role, but we need more volunteers, especially from IRCC. If you’re able to commit a couple of hours per month to help plan some fun in-person and virtual events in 2024, please send us a message and let us know.

That’s all I have for you this week. As always, if you are having any concerns with your situation at work, please contact us. Send us a detailed message with your name, department, and a description of the issues you are facing. You will be put in touch with a member of our Labour Relations team who will be glad to assist you. For anything else, just send an email to info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you shortly.

I’ll be back in touch with you in two weeks. In the meantime, you can always follow me at @PafsoPresApasefor my take on current issues, politics, and anything that impacts on our profession.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld