Public servants issue open letter to employer regarding return to workplace

By August 4, 2022August 8th, 2022Return to Workplace

As the medical officer for Ottawa continues to reiterate that we’re in the 7th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, key indicators are on the rise, and it’s time to take this wave seriously, some federal departments, despite this, have been forging ahead with their return to workplace plans for federal public servants by rushing to put telework agreements in place for hybrid work scenarios.

And while almost everyone has offered their own hot takes about federal public servants returning to the workplace such as city Mayors, pundits, businesses, the media, and politicians, a coalition of federal public servants are now putting their own perspective forward in an open letter to their employer.

Under the umbrella, “GoC Together,” the coalition has launched a website where the open letter can be found and a call to action for all public servants to sign the letter if they agree with it.

Titled, “An open letter to the Government of Canada regarding the future of remote work for federal public servants,” the letter has already acquired over 2,000 signatures.

“Tone-deaf, out of touch” senior management perspectives

Over the summer, several departments have held department-wide town halls where return to workplace was discussed with “tone-deaf, out of touch” messaging from senior management frustrating public servants.

At the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), one Director spoke about the benefits of return to workplace from their perspective which included the importance of supporting minimum wage workers such as those at the restaurant chain, Subway.

Reaction by public servants at PHAC was swift, who criticized the Director’s example. Criticism was so strong, other senior managers from PHAC defended the director on social media which led to comments like this:

The Deputy Minister also had to issue an email to all-staff about the criticism online.

At Global Affairs Canada, return to workplace was also covered at a town hall there with the Associate Deputy Minister sharing they found cycling and public transit too frustrating so they bought a car.

The Associate Deputy Minister’s comments were also referred to as “out of touch” with the concerns of most public servants around their health, safety and return to the workplace.

The open letter being aligned with the Clerk’s 2021 annual report on the public service

In the Clerk’s most recent annual report on the public service, the Clerk identified three main points:

  • anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service;
  • the health and well-being of public servants over the last year; and,
  • the future of the public service and an acknowledgement that things will never go back to the way they were before COVID-19.

These three points support and correspond directly to the arguments that public servants have been making about their preferences around return to the workplace.

On anti-racism, equity and inclusion, public servants who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have shared online that the return to the physical office does not evoke a sense of unity and inclusion for them but rather is a reminder that they are intentionally excluded and don’t feel safe.

As well, public servants who have expressed support for the letter said that remote work has also meant more opportunities and more inclusiveness for those across the country:

The letter directly addresses health and well-being of public servants which the Clerk raised:

“We want the opportunity to establish a harmonious work-life balance. One that simultaneously promotes productivity and personal well-being. We want to be treated respectfully. This not only means being heard, but also having our opinions taken into consideration in a meaningful way. Perhaps most of all, we want the freedom to choose the way we work. Each of us is intimately aware of our responsibilities and the environment that is most conducive to our optimal performance. Our commitment to serve the public is unwavering. Trust us to do our jobs the best way we can.”

The letter ends with a request to not impose a hybrid arrangement on all public servants but rather let each employee, “in discussion with our respective managers, choose the work configuration that best suits our work objectives” and invites public servants to contact their union and Member of Parliament.

Sign the letter

For those who may be interested, the letter can be signed here.

The letter does not ask for anyone to identify themselves, only a confirmation that they are an employee of the Government of Canada and that they support the letter.

GoC Together also invites public servants to share their stories around return to the workplace with them.

Other links:

About GoC Together

Contact GoC Together