Update from the President of PAFSO for May 6, 2022

Dear Members,

It has become so difficult to know exactly where we are in this pandemic lately. Case numbers, hospitalizations and other indicators all seem to be at or near all-time highs. But in many places around the world, it looks like the situation is normalizing. I think it’s that after more than two years, the world is starting to learn how to live with the pandemic – how to return to a new normal.

This brings me to the subject of our return to the workplace which I’d mentioned to you in my last message. Earlier this week, Treasury Board announced that they had published their Guidance on Optimizing a Hybrid Workforce. Developed last November in consultation with PAFSO and the other bargaining agents of the core public administration, this guidance recognizes that over the course of the pandemic, Canada’s federal public service proved its ability to adapt to new ways of working while maintaining a high level of service and consistently delivering results for Canadians. In their words, the future of work can be reimagined to “embed the agility and flexibility that has served Canadians during the ongoing pandemic.” The new hybrid workforce model is designed to meet operational requirements while providing for improved work-life balance and wellness. As Treasury Board mentions in their document, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and we are to expect iteration and experimentation as the process unfolds. We will continue to monitor how this guidance is applied to make sure that it aligns with our terms and conditions of employment, with our collective agreement and, most importantly, with any public health advisories that may arise.

For many of us, this return to the workplace represents a big change in our lives and for some this can mean stress and apprehension. That’s why empathy and compassion are key skills that need to be at the core of how we interact with each other. This was the subject of the webinar we just held yesterday. Turning Inwards and Outwards: Building Mindfulness for Culture Change at Work, presented by PAFSO as part of Mental Health Week, was a fascinating discussion led by former GAC employee Scheherzade Rana of Innerspace Mindfulness. Pulling from the worlds of contemplative practice, positive psychology, neuroscience and emotional intelligence, Rana introduced us to some tested tools to improve our individual wellbeing, to build trust, strengthen psychological safety and to foster greater inclusion. If you were unable to participate, we have made a recording of the session which is available here on our YouTube channel for the next week. You can also download a PDF of the presentation deck by using this link.

A few weeks ago, the Collective Bargaining Committee reached out to you with a questionnaire seeking to find out what mattered most to you for the upcoming round of negotiations. We received an astounding 589 responses, and the committee is still in the process of combing through all the data, but there are a few items I can share with you here. We asked you to rank your top 5 concerns for our team to bring to the table, and here are the results:

  1. Salaries and Economic Advances
  2. Additional Provisions for Telework/Remote Work
  3. Issues Related to Workload
  4. Opportunities for Training and Career Development
  5. Additional Provisions for Flexible Work Arrangements

These top concerns as well as other issues you’ve indicated will form the basis of the bargaining proposals our team puts together. I wish to thank everyone who took the time to fill out the questionnaire. I’ve mentioned it before, but your input is crucial to our getting the best deal possible for everyone. As the committee continues with their work, I’ll be sure to update you periodically.

Another committee that has been hard at work lately is the Professional Committee. Following the success of last October’s first ever Tradecraft Week, the committee is entering the planning stages for this year’s edition. Our membership is diverse, and spread across five different streams, so it’s important make sure this event has the widest appeal. To that end, the committee will be reaching out to you in the next few weeks. Not only do they want to know what issues interest you, they will also be looking for people who can contribute to the production of the event. Keep an eye on your inboxes for an email from them soon.

I’ll also be hosting our regular PAFSO Breakfast on Tuesday, May 10, at 0900, with former PAFSO member and retired ambassador Gary J. Smith. He will talk to us about his book Ice War Diplomat, about the diplomatic side of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR.  One reviewer has described the book as “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets Disney’s Miracle on Ice, with cases of Molson and vodka as the rink boards and KGB spies masquerading as hockey officials,” so it promises to be an interesting and lively discussion. You can register for the webinar here.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, your input is requested as PAFSO and AmbCanada enter the next phase of our project to establish a coat of arms for Canada’s Foreign Service. The Canadian Heraldic Authority, as authorized by Governor General Mary Simon, has already begin the work on the design of our coat of arms, which, in keeping with the proud traditions of other government departments, will serve as a unique identifier for PAFSO and AmbCanada members. You can still contribute to the design process, by visiting this link on the AmbCanada website before next Monday, May 9.

That’s about it for this week’s message. Please remember that if you are having any issues or concerns with your circumstances at work, you can always send an email to our Executive Director, Kim Coles. Be sure to include your name, department and a brief description of your situation and she will connect you with someone from our labour relations team. For all other inquiries, just email info@pafso.com and we will get back to you very shortly.

Sometimes it feels like we’re exiting this pandemic with exactly as much chaos and confusion as when we entered it over two years ago. These days, I’m never quite sure which way the trend line is pointing, but the next normal is definitely around the corner – and that corner is coming closer every day. All we can do is keep safe and keep sane. Let’s limit our contacts, mask while indoors, distance where and when possible and keep up with our vaccinations. Also, let’s keep empathy top of mind – everybody is going through this in their own way. Don’t forget that if you would like to connect with others in the FS community, you are always welcome at our regular coffee session, which takes place on the second Wednesday of the month at 1030. You can register for the 11 May session here.

We’ll chat again in two weeks. Until then, take care of yourselves, and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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