Update from the President of PAFSO for September 1, 2023

Dear members,

Well, here we are approaching Labour Day already. And, as usual, we have a busy fall ahead of us with our AGM just around the corner. Before I get into the updates, I wanted to share with you some great news on one of the ongoing battles our Labour Relations team has been fighting for you.

Big win against discrimination before the Federal Public Service Labour Relations Board
We have just learned that the Federal Public Service Labour Relations Board (FPSLRB) has ruled in our favour in a major human rights case.

In early 2014, while posted in China, the grievor and his husband decided to start a family together. Legal considerations led them to choose surrogacy in North America. And, for a variety of reasons, the grievor and his husband considered it important that they both be present for the birth.

FSD 41 would typically have provided coverage for airfare and reasonable living expenses while awaiting to return to post. It had previously been granted in cases of natural childbirth. However, in this case, this support was denied by the Employer.

After a long and drawn-out process, the FPSLRB has found that the Employer’s refusal was based on an inflexible, narrow, and restrictive interpretation of FSD 41, and that it constituted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and family status.

In the adjudicator’s words:

“This runs counter to the human rights principles that are incorporated into collective agreements both because of a specific no-discrimination clause and because of the principle dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada that human rights legislation must always be considered when interpreting collective agreements.”

We are very pleased with this outcome. It obviously is a great victory for our members regardless of their sexual orientation or family status and sets an important precedent for same sex couples, and anyone considering surrogacy. But beyond that, it shows how the Employer, in its interpretation of the FSDs, cannot add restrictive conditions that are not supported by the wording and context of the directives.

The financial situation at GAC
As outlined in March’s budget, the Employer has launched an initiative that requires all departments to commit to reduce spending over the next 3 fiscal years. For GAC this means scaling back, or in certain cases, stopping programs and activities, mostly in the area of professional services. These cuts come on top of the reduction in budgets, including at missions, that we have already seen this fiscal year.

In their message to GAC employees earlier this week, the deputy ministers stated that “the overall situation is serious” and that “there will be impacts”. However, they also promised that they will be keeping staff, including younger recruits, at the forefront of the decisions they make and that they will ensure that a gender-based analysis as well as an equity and diversity lens are applied to all options they will be considering.

This is not the first time we have seen departmental belt-tightening. And while we do appreciate the need to rein in spending, it must not come at the expense of negotiated collective agreements or employee health and safety. We will be keeping a close eye on all of this as developments unfold. It is our understanding that the full implementation plan will be released in early September, so you can expect to hear more from us later this month.

The 2023 AGM
As I’ve mentioned before, our 2023 Annual General Meeting is taking place virtually on Monday October 23, at 4pm, Ottawa time. Anyone interested in participating in the AGM should send an email to agm-aga@pafso-apase.com with your name and department. We will be sending out a formal meeting invitation with the full agenda and all related documents to registered participants at a date closer to the event.

Randy Orr Memorial Award nominations are still open
I also want to remind you that nominations for the second annual Randy Orr Memorial award are open until next Friday, 8 September, at midnight, Ottawa time. In honour of our long-serving Executive Committee colleague, the Award, and its $1,000 prize, were established to recognize exceptional volunteer service to our foreign service community. Nominations are open to anyone who has contributed, outside the framework of their paid employment, to improving life for those who serve Canada abroad. This includes not just PAFSO members, but also their families, and other colleagues. If there is someone you would like to nominate, please send an e-mail to info@pafso.com telling us who they are, what they have done, when, and why it made a difference. Each nomination should be supported by three people, including at least one current regular PAFSO member. The winner of the 2023 Randy Orr Memorial Award will be announced at our Annual General Meeting on October 23.

Renewal of the PAFSO website
Many thanks to those of you who helped us test the design of our new website. We received some useful feedback, which is being incorporated by our web designers. We plan to launch the new website very soon. Please watch this space for more news.

PAFSO Breakfast: Queer Diplomacy with Doug Janoff, September 12 at 0900 Ottawa time
Please join me on for the next installment of the PAFSO Breakfast series next Tuesday, September 12 at 0900, Ottawa time. Our September session will feature PAFSO member Doug Janoff, who will talk to us about his new book Queer Diplomacy: homophobia, international relations, and LGBT human rights. It is the first study of multilateral LGBT diplomacy from the perspective of the practitioners. Doug is an amazing speaker, and this will no doubt be a fascinating discussion, so make sure you are registered for the session.

That’s it for me this week. But, as always, if there’s anything concerning you about your situation at work, just send us an emailwith 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 help you out. For any other questions, let us know at info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

For those of you in the northern hemisphere, and in the NCR in particular, try to make the most of these last lovely summer days. They go by so fast. And, as you enjoy this last summer long weekend, please take a moment to remember that ten years ago today, PAFSO members were engaged in Canada’s longest public service strike. Our fight was for pay equity between our group and other colleagues doing similar policy work for the government of Canada. And, in the end, we won. The fair pay and protections that we enjoy today have been hard-won. And now, ten years on, PAFSO, alongside other labour unions, continue to fight for you.

We’ll chat next in two weeks’ time. Between now and then, you can check out my take on current affairs, politics and any other issue impacting our profession at, make sure to check out my President’s Twitter account.

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

All the best,

Pam Isfeld