Update on the COVID-19 pandemic from the President

Dear Members: 

It is hard to believe it has been only a week since my last update to you on PAFSO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since my last message, this situation has gone from worrisome to one that directly affects each of us, both as PAFSO members and as citizens of Canada and the world.   

First and foremost, I want you to know that during this time of crisis, your PAFSO team is focussed on protecting and supporting our membership in every way we can. We are facing the most significant health crisis in memory, along with an unprecedented evacuation of non-essential Canada Based Staff and dependents from many missions, at the same time as many Canadians are stranded abroad and need our help. Many of us are exhausted, worried, uncertain of the future, and facing extremely difficult challenges and decisions.  

In addition to our regular contact with the Labour Relations and Human Resources Team at both GAC and IRCC, I am participating in daily virtual meetings with Treasury Board and the other federal Bargaining Agents to ensure that we have input on government decisions that affect us. Last weekend, this group succeeded in persuading the Government of the need to take leadership in enacting the social distancing recommendations put forward by the Public Health Agency of Canada and instructing managers to implement a work from home protocol where feasible for all federal government staff, at home or in missions abroad. In addition, we also got agreement that those who have to self-isolate or stay home with children due to the pandemic and cannot telework should use leave code 699, Other Leave with Pay, for such absences.  

Although most members report that these recommendations are followed in their workplaces, we have identified a few where this was not happening, and Treasury Board has clarified its instructions to those work units. While there will be legitimate exceptions to the work-from-home protocols due to operational requirements, I encourage you to contact our Executive Director, Kim Coles (kim.coles@pafso.com) for assistance if you believe these exceptions are being applied in an unsafe or discriminatory way.  

We are also aware that over the coming days, an unprecedented number of PAFSO members and their dependents will be arriving in Canada after having been evacuated from missions abroad and will be facing self-isolation and an uncertain future. Our team has already assisted a number of you with concerns ranging from family separation to obtaining essential medical care upon arrival in Canada, and we will continue to work with the Employer to make sure all of you receive the help and support you need. Please do not hesitate to contact Kim and the PAFSO office for assistance with FSD64 or any other issue.  

We are doing our best to keep up on the flow of information, but as things are changing daily, we have created a forum on myPAFSO for the latest news https://pafso.com/forums/topic/discussion-covid-19/ as well as a Wiki for peers to share useful information on subjects such as working from home, IT access, etc. https://pafso.com/wiki/informations-utiles-pour-le-travail-a-domicile-useful-information-for-working-from-home/ . We also recommend you monitor the Employer’s main information site for Government of Canada employees, which includes direction sent by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to managers https://www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/covid-19.html as well as details on how to access available mental health services. 

As we navigate these difficult and uncharted waters, I am continually impressed by the compassion and professionalism shown by PAFSO members and staff.  I know that all of you must be battling your own worry and uncertainty, yet I have seen you gather to support colleagues, care for family and loved ones,  all the while continuing your important work in service of Canada, and Canadians, at home and abroad.  

You really are the Professional Foreign Service, and I have never been prouder to be a member. 

Take care of yourselves and each other. 

Pam Isfeld

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