Update on Covid-19

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Reopening of Federal Courts

Throughout the summer, we have been diligently continuing our work to ensure the safety, health and security of our members during the pandemic.  As courts across the country set out their re-opening plans, the AJC has been making sure that every precaution is taken to keep our members safe and healthy.  We and other provincial public service unions have put on a united front by advocating for your and the Canadian public’s health and safety interests.  

The adequacy of the reopening plans from a health and safety perspective vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and sometimes from court to court within a jurisdiction. We continue to respond to the court reopening plans on a case-by-case basis. The Courts Administrative Service (CAS), responsible for the federal courts reopening plan, is the latest in inadequate plans we are focused on improving to the benefit of all participants.  The unwillingness of the CAS to consider the AJC recommendations has led us to elevate our concerns to the ministers responsible (read our letter here).

Our emphasis will continue to focus to securing the wearing of masks at all times in courthouses, ensuring the employing department confirms the status of the courthouse HVAC systems and cleaning protocols, as well as equips all lawyers with a “safety tool kit” that includes an appropriate response and action plan with what to do and who to contact/report to information in case of observed non-compliance where they feel at risk. 

None of this work could be done without the exemplary commitment and contributions of your elected Governing Council representatives who were heavily engaged in the multiple consultations both internally within the AJC and across the country with a variety of departments and stakeholders.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.  Their ability to mobilize in great numbers was unprecedented in these unprecedented times.

We will continue to keep you updated as the situation develops.

699 Leave Consultations

As you will recall from our June 30th communique, bargaining agents have been actively engaged in consultations with TB in relation to 699 leave.  As a reminder, those who are unable to work all their hours on account of competing family obligations, can use 699 leave to make up the difference. 

Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), these consultations have been stalled and plans have been developed in silos, with little consultation, and without due consideration given to the impact of the changes proposed. To this end, the National Joint Council on behalf of the entire public service workforce has written this correspondence to the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer.

As well, the AJC has filed a CoViD-19 related policy grievance on the use of 699 leave where schools and/or day cares have reopened so that members are not forced to choose between their children’s safety and the risk of losing their income.   This policy grievance focuses on provisions within the Collective Agreement related to management rights, non-discrimination and the Charter rights of lawyers and their loved ones.

As a result, Treasury Board agreed to share a draft of its proposed changes to 699 leave.  The AJC and other bargaining agents have provided extensive comments on the proposed changes.  The AJC President's letter can be accessed here. As well, on Friday August 28th, the federal union members of the Covid-19 Working Group wrote to the ministers who are part of the Covid-19 Cabinet committee to share their concerns. Further consultation meetings will be held with Treasury Board on the proposed changes to 699 leave.

Open Office Work Spaces

The AJC and other bargaining agents are lending their support our brethren at Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) in regards to the ongoing conversion of federal government workplaces into open offices despite the health threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand, is being asked to put a stop to any further open office conversions across the country until updated safety protocols are in place that take into account the lessons learned during the pandemic. https://pipsc.ca/news-issues/open-workplaces/stop-open-office-conversion-now

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments on these matters in the weeks ahead.