26 September 2023

CANADA: Hybrid work proposals ‘threat to health’

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Canadian Federal Public Servants are complaining that the Government’s plan to get them back to the office after COVID-19 is confusing, disjointed and jeopardises health and safety.

This follows the Treasury Board’s release of guidelines on hybrid work arrangements, tasking Departments with deciding “whether the location of work can be made flexible, to what extent, and how”.

Treasury Board spokesperson, Barb Couperus said it was up to Deputy Heads of Departments (Permanent Secretaries) to make decisions about health and safety, guided by public health authorities and workplace health and safety committees.

“Given the diversity of the Federal Government’s workforce and operations, there will be no one-size-fits-all,” Ms Couperus said, noting work sites varied from coastguard ships to laboratories and prisons.

President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Jennifer Carr said the Treasury Board’s decision to devolve the responsibility of figuring out how to bring employees back into the office to individual Departments meant approaches were not co-ordinated and varied widely.

She said that made it difficult for the union to give guidance to members on how a proper return to work should happen.

Ms Carr (pictured) said that given many of the Institute’s 60,000 members had been working on the front lines since the start of the pandemic, she was seeking assurances that workplaces were safe.

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees called for a suspension of return to offices, citing concern with “the serious and unnecessary risk to the health and safety” of its members being required to return to the workplace as the COVID-19 pandemic entered a seventh wave.

Association President, Greg Phillips said members had not been given any rationale for why it was necessary to start hybrid working and come back into the workplace now.

“Treat us like the professionals we are, show us the rationale, explain to us why it’s necessary,” Mr Phillips said.

“Otherwise we’re left to just wonder — to not know what the heck is going on,”.

Ottawa, 30 July 2022

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