By Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC)
Federal employees began mandatory return to the office on January 16. Since then, more than 1,100 public servants represented by the Professional Institute of the Public Service Canada (PIPSC) have reached out to their union looking for support as they navigate the challenges created by this “one-size fits all” order. The concerns raised by PIPSC members ranged from workplace safety, availability of office and basic equipment, network capacity, breach of work agreement, accommodation issues, before and after school child care availability, and more.
One key issue is that in spite of having been issued a return-to-office directive, many federal employees no longer have dedicated offices to return to.
“As we feared, we are now living with the logistical nightmares created by this hastily-implemented return-to-office policy. Many departments and agencies were wholly unprepared for the practical realities involved in this government order,” said PIPSC President Jennifer Carr. “As a result, some of our members are returning to buildings that are now doubling as construction sites. Others are having to bounce between various federal government coworking spaces, which often means staying up until midnight to secure a space close to home.”
These logistical problems are not only bad for morale, they are hindering federal employees’ abilities to keep the country’s most important institutions operating smoothly and productively.
“The same people who built CERB from home are now wasting time every day setting up and taking down makeshift work stations in the cafeteria,” explained Carr. “Or they are trying to have crucial video meetings from buildings with unreliable Wi-Fi – often with team members on separate floors of the same building.”
For workers who are parents, there is the additional challenge of suddenly needing before and after school care on a moment’s notice – at a time when these types of programs are long-since booked solid.
“Like all parents, I know the stress created by a last-minute childcare emergency,” added Carr. “Think of the panicked scrambling you have to do on a snow day – then imagine having to suddenly figure this out two to three days a week.”
It is time for the federal government to acknowledge that they made a mistake, sit down to consult with the people affected, and present a reasonable plan that works for employees while effectively delivering the services Canadians rely on.
“We take no joy in having been right about what a mess this was going to be,” Carr concluded. “The good news is, it’s not too late to work together to build a better solution.”
PIPSC represents over 72,000 public service professionals working for the federal government as well as some provincial departments and agencies.