Update from the President of PAFSO for January 7, 2022

Dear Members,

Happy New Year! We made it through 2021. I hope that all of you managed to get some well-deserved downtime and connect with friends and family over the holiday season.

Since my last message, the Omicron variant has continued to spread, causing unprecedented case levels in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Here in the National Capital Region, restrictions have returned to a level of restrictions similar to those of last spring. Federal departments have been asked to pause their return to the workplace plans, and have employees work from home whenever possible. You can find the latest guidance from the Public Service Occupational Health Program here.

Although the vast majority of managers seem to be exercising appropriate caution and flexibility, we continue to hear from some members who are uncomfortable with the systems in place in their offices in Canada or abroad. In those cases, we advise members to first discuss the issue with their management, and if they feel that their concerns are not properly addressed, to bring the problem to the attention of their local Occupational Safety and Health committees. If, at that point, you believe that your workplace is handling your situation in an unsafe or discriminatory manner, please reach out to our Executive Director Kim Coles for advice.  Although we recognize the right of managers in Canada and at missions to take measures that reflect workplace needs and local conditions, your health and safety must come first.

I have just received the top-line results from last fall’s triennial survey and was not surprised to see that concerns about the pandemic are top of mind for many of you. While 72% of you said that you were very or somewhat satisfied with the COVID-19 safety measures in place at your workplace, more than half of you reported serious issues with the assignment and relocation process. Only 4% were able to say that they had no significant problems. At the same time, 68% of those considering leaving the Foreign Service in the next ten years report that lack of support from the Employer during the posting process is a key factor in their decision. Clearly, the Foreign Service Directives are a major irritant for our membership, and as called for in our Strategic Plan, they will be a key element of PAFSO’s work plan as we prepare for the upcoming review.

One thing that surprised me about the survey results so far is that only about 1/3 of you reported that you were aware of our three-year Strategic Plan. In December, the Executive Committee met to review the priorities in the document, which was approved at the Annual General Meeting in October 2020 and runs until the end of 2023 and concluded that they remain valid. If you have a moment, please have a look at the plan here, since this document outlines the work that we will do on your behalf over the next year.

One of the priorities in the Strategic Plan was the implementation of our Full-Time Presidency project. Now that the membership has voted to make this a permanent part of our governance structure, and the required constitutional amendments are in place, we will be going ahead with nominations and elections. We expect to launch the process in February to allow time for campaigning and a vote before the end of April. Please register for my information session on next steps on Wednesday, 26 January at 1400 EST to learn more. Click here to register.

I’ll also be hosting our first PAFSO Breakfast of the year next Tuesday, 11 January, at 0900 Ottawa time. My guests will be Michael Blanchfield of the Canadian Press, and Fen Hampsion of NPSIA, who will discuss their book “The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War,” which is available at all major booksellers. Please register here for what should be an interesting discussion.

On another note, it has recently come to our attention that several of you have still not received your salary step increases that were due to take effect last August. If you are one of the ones who has not seen their August 1, 2021, salary increases, please send an email to our Labour Relations Adviser, Marc Leclaire, before 1600, Ottawa time, Thursday January 20, 2021. Please make sure your email includes the following information:

  • Your current level (FS-01, FS-02, FS-03, FS-04)
  • Your current rate of pay
  • If you have already contacted the pay center in order to bring the issue to their attention, please include the case number provided to you.
  • If you have not, what other attempts at resolution have you undertaken?

We will then compile a list of all those affected in order bring the issue to the Employer as a group rather than on a case-by-case basis. Although PAFSO does not have direct access to the Phoenix Pay System, we always strive to help our members succeed in resolving their pay issues through communicating with our various partners and contacts within the departments.

Finally, for those of you who would like to connect with the community for an informal chat, I will be hosting two regular monthly virtual events: a Coffee Break at 1030 on the second Wednesday of each month and a Happy Hour at 1700 on the third Wednesday. Please join me starting on 12 and 19 January.

As always, if you have any concerns about your situation at work, Executive Director Kim Coles is your first point of contact. Just send her an email describing your circumstance and she will put you in touch with our labour relations team. For all other questions, please send an email to info@pafso.com.

I hope you are all ready for what should be an exciting year to come. You will hear from me again in two weeks, and until then, please stay safe and take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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