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Federal public servants mandated to return to office 2-3 days a week by March 31

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The federal government will require public servants to work at least two to three days a week in person, or between 40 to 60 per cent of their regular schedule, in the spring.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board, said the change was to create a common approach to remote work for the federal public service.

“In-person work better supports collaboration, team spirit, innovation and a culture of belonging,” she said.

“We’ve now seen that there needs to be greater fairness and equity across our workplaces and we need consistency in how hybrid work is applied across the federal government.”

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The one-size-fits-all hybrid model will come into full effect March 31.

This move represents a change for some departments, although many public servants already work in person several days a week.

Need for ‘fairness and equity’

To allow for a smooth transition, the government will use a phased introduction by Jan. 16, with full implementation by March 31, 2023.

A Government of Canada logo on a brick highrise.
Government of Canada office buildings, as seen in downtown Gatineau, Que., in July 2022, won’t be as empty in the spring of 2023. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Fortier said the government had decided to move to a hybrid system and told departments and organizations to experiment with different hybrid systems to find what worked and what didn’t.

Through that period, Fortier said they identified inconsistencies in approach, mainly through what she described as “fairness and equity” in the system.

“I understand that there were conversations and feedback shared … we informed the unions about this new decision from the management, that location of work is a right of the employer.”

Union calls decision ‘disingenuous’

Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents about 70,000 scientists and professionals working for government, said workers have been doing their jobs effectively from home and she is not satisfied by the reasons given for the mandate.

Carr also said her union was given a one-hour notice on the announcement.

“To hear the minister say … the decision was about serving Canadians, and not providing specific examples [about how], is one of the things that I find kind of disingenuous,” she said.

Carr said her members are also taxpayers and want the most efficient use of government money, alluding to past discussions around saving money by having public sector employees work from home.

“They are paid for the work that they produce, not where they produce it,” Carr said of her members.

“To meet this mandate, they will have public service come into [Government of Canada] work hubs or work locations and sit on computers and do exactly the same type of work.”

Public Service Alliance of Canada president Chris Aylward called a new in-person work mandate for public servants a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ from the federal government.

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) President Chris Aylward echoed the sentiments of Carr, saying members have shown they can work remotely.

“We see this as a poorly planned and knee-jerk reaction from the government that doesn’t have the best interest of workers or Canadians at heart, and it’s completely at odds really with the direction that this government has been moving towards on remote work.”

He said the union is currently negotiating a new contract with the federal government and members want the agreement to include their right to work remotely.

“For Treasury Board to unilaterally basically change the terms and conditions of our members’ employment, and imposing a mandatory return to the offices, is an egregious violation of workers’ collective bargaining rates,” he said.

“When you go into collective bargaining, there is a freeze on terms and conditions of employment and certainly that’s not what we’re seeing here.”

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), which represents 23,000 workers,  released a statement after the announcement, calling the move “a slap in the face.”

President Greg Phillips said the timing of the announcement, “happening right in the middle of a nationwide viral cocktail of three viruses,” is concerning, noting the current strain being put on the health-care system.

In its statement, CAPE said it was co-ordinating a joint response with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), PIPSC and other bargaining agents.

In a brief statement issued Thursday afternoon, Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe applauded the federal government’s decision.

“The federal government is the largest employer in Ottawa, and having clarity around the future of its workforce is critical for our local economy,” Sutcliffe said.

“When public servants return to government offices, it will be beneficial to both our public transit system and our downtown.”

Departments will have latitude

Fortier said departments will have the latitude to decide whether they require employees to work anywhere from 40 per cent of the time at the office to 60 per cent.

The new model will be applied to the entirety of the core public administration, with it being strongly recommended that separate agencies adopt a similar strategy.

Some exceptions will be made in a very limited set of circumstances and will need approval of management, the news release added.

“If this is about ticking a box about being present in the workplace, and not about how we’re performing, not about the work that we produce, I really have to question the logic,” Carr said.

“Especially the amount of savings that they have garnered over the pandemic and could garner in saving taxpayer money.”

Immunocompromised employees will continue to be able to apply for an accommodation.

“As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, employees can be confident that effective measures continue to be taken to protect their health and safety in the workplace,” the news release states.

Businesses in downtown Ottawa have long decried federal workers who no longer come downtown to work. But the government has stopped short of saying it would eventually bring all employees back to the office five days a week.

“Hybrid work is the future of the public service,” the release said.

Downtown bar manager hopes for bump in business with return to work

Dominique Labelle of Château Lafayette in downtown Ottawa says she expects a return to a “somewhat normal” existence when public servants come back to the office for two to three days a week.

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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