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Return to in-person work a contentious issue among federal public servants

Workers await announcement this week requiring a certain number of work days in person
Parliament buildings in Ottawa. (Black Press file photo)

Whispers of an impending return-to-office mandate have some federal public servants voicing their disapproval.

To date, government departments have been making their own decisions about remote and hybrid work, with several opting for a remote work model.

However, musings about a potential back-to-office order, which could mean two to three days of in-person work a week, are sparking debate..

Several public servants who have adjusted to working remotely due to COVID-19 said it is a contentious issue, in part because the pandemic is still ongoing.

Candice Tremblay, who works at the Department of Justice, is required to come into the office only once a week. As a single parent who has to juggle the constant closures of schools during the pandemic, she said her work-life balance is better than it was before.

“I wish everybody could have this option,” Tremblay said. “But some jobs are just not made that way.”

Tremblay received an email from her union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, notifying her of the potential coming change. The union said it was prepared to fight for its members’ rights.

On social media some people have voiced the opposite opinion, saying that if employees were hired to work in person it shouldn’t be an issue.

Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance, said it’s not so cut and dried. For many people working remotely, going back in person means longer commute times, having to rearrange already set schedules and readapting.

Aylward said that although everything is speculation, the union is on edge since in the past several rumours have turned out to be true.

“We’ve been working remotely for two-and-a-half years, we’ve been doing it effectively,” he said.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, who oversees the administration of the public service, said last month that hybrid work is here to stay.

Her office said it will not be commenting on the topic at this time.

Aylward contacted the Treasury Board on Friday for information, but it told him no announcement was scheduled.

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