26 September 2023

CANADA: ‘Subway plea’ for office working derided

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The Canadian Federal Government is continuing to face pushback from employees reluctant to return to offices after more than two years working from home.

Online forums for Public Servants have exploded in recent weeks with comments about the prospect of returning to offices, with employees comparing notes on the hybrid work plans each Department is planning to adopt.

One comment by a Health Canada manager urging employees to return to the office, in part to provide workers at a nearby Subway restaurant with more hours, blew up into a series of sarcastic memes online.

Public Service unions said that while some employees wanted to return to working in Government offices, or were happy with a hybrid arrangement, a majority wanted to keep working from home as Canada experiences a seventh wave of COVID-19.

President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), Jennifer Carr said studies of the union membership showed 60 per cent would prefer to stay in a work-from-home situation, 25 per cent would like to do hybrid shifts, and 10 per cent would like to come back to the office full time.

The PIPSC represents about 70,000 workers, including scientists and computer specialists.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest Federal Government union, with nearly 230,000 members, wants the Government to be flexible about bringing employees back into the office and to address their anxieties.

“We know that most of our members are still working remotely, and many want to continue having that flexibility,” PSAC said in a statement.

“Remote work has become a part of everyday life for many workers and we’ll continue to fight to enshrine it in our collective agreements during this round of bargaining with the Treasury Board and Agencies.”

In an interview, President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier said hybrid work was the future of the Federal Public Service.

“Hybrid work is here to stay, so we need to really understand that hybrid work will be part of how we deliver programs and services to Canadians,” Ms Fortier (pictured) said.

“I know that a lot of people believe that COVID-19 is gone, but we’re still in a COVID space.”

Ottawa, 8 August 2022

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