Update from the President of PAFSO for March 28, 2024

Dear members,

Welcome to a special Thursday edition of my President’s message. As this is a short week and we are headed into the holiday long weekend, I will keep things brief. There are just a few things I would like to keep you up to date on, so let’s begin.

Advocacy on the inadequacy of the Public Service Health Care Plan coverage abroad
Since last year’s transfer of the PSHCP to Canada Life and its overseas subcontractor, MSH International, we have heard from our members about the inadequacy of both the service and coverage provided to members, particularly for those abroad. Although the most egregious gaps – like those that resulted in the denial of emergency medical services to members and their families – seem to have been addressed for now, the situation remains unacceptable, especially for those posted to the U.S.

We are still getting reports of denial of coverage without warning or explanation, difficulties in obtaining authorization for essential procedures, inadequate documentation, and lack of knowledge on the part of customer service agents. And we are also aware that many of you are still waiting for decisions on reimbursement of claims from many months ago, and that in some cases, the outstanding amounts are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are all stresses you should not have to bear as you serve Canada and Canadians abroad.

Although we have been pleased with the flexibility and cooperation shown by GAC on this issue, the action plan promised at the end of last year has not materialized. It is becoming clear that the Employer is not able to hold its contractor to account on its own. Accordingly, PAFSO and our NJC partners are investigating the possibility of other measures to compel the Employer to take concrete action, and to meet its duty of care obligations in real time. We will also be continuing our media outreach and engaging with parliamentarians on this very serious issue.

As this issue evolves, we will be sure to keep you updated. In the meantime, if you are encountering any issues with Canada Life or MSH, please let us know so we can keep track of the magnitude of this debacle.

PAFSO’s spring Tradecraft series is looking for presenters
The Professional Committee is hard at work putting together the spring edition of PAFSO’s Tradecraft series. IN case you didn’t know, Tradecraft is a peer-to-peer conference by members, for members. It’s a great opportunity to network, to share experiences, to hear from experts on a variety of subjects, and to learn about the challenges facing colleagues in other streams. The theme for this upcoming edition is “Your First Posting.” This promises to be a great chance to pass on to our newest colleagues some of the things we have learned since the beginning of our Foreign Service careers. So, if you would like to share your experiences working abroad for the first time, or if you have some tips and tricks on how to best prepare or what to expect, please let us know by sending an email to Marty Johnston.

FSD cyclical review: back at the negotiating table
Having faced several challenges in the preliminary stages of the FSD cyclical review process, I am pleased to report that all disputes pertaining to preliminary matters have finally been resolved and that the actual negotiation phase began earlier this week. While we expect a long road ahead, we are pleased that our key proposals will be discussed, and both parties have agreed to meet twice a week for the foreseeable future. We remain hopeful that this round of cyclical review will lead to a significant number of favourable changes for our members.

Agreement between CRA and the Alliance
Recently, a few of you have reached out to us with questions about the agreement between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) concerning the taxability of Phoenix damages awarded in 2021. As you may have heard, last month, our colleagues at PSAC secured an agreement with the CRA that treats up to $1,500 of their Phoenix general damages compensation as non-taxable.

This agreement is only between members of the Alliance and CRA. PAFSO has not concluded a similar agreement. It is our understanding that the required “notice of objection” forms are very convoluted and difficult to navigate, and that the value of the maximum possible refund on $1,500 of non-taxable benefits is relatively minimal.

Of course, should this agreement be extended to the other bargaining agents of the core public administration, we will let you know. For now, however, this only applies to members of PSAC and not to us.

PAFSO Breakfasts
Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting a special edition of our PAFSO Breakfast series featuring members of our Labour Relations team. General Manager Bertrand Myre was joined by Paul Raven and Monique Poonai to talk about how PAFSO’s Labour Relations team engages on a wide variety of issues from harassment and discrimination in the workplace to the interpretation of the Foreign Service Directives. If you were unable to participate, as always, we have a recording of the session available to view here on our YouTube channel.

Our next installment in the PAFSO Breakfast series is in just over a week when I will be hosting Blair Cooper, President and CEO of Tradex. Join us on April 9 at 0900, Ottawa time, for a discussion about the current investment climate. With tax season just around the corner, this promises to be not only an interesting session, but also a very timely one. Please use this link to sign up for the session.

That’s all the news I have for you now. As always, should there be anything causing you concern in the workplace, just send us an email with your name, department, and a detailed description of the issues you are facing. We will get you in touch with one of our Labour Relations Advisors who will be happy to assist you. For anything else, email info@pafso.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend, and we’ll chat again in two weeks.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld