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refusals to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

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OTTAWA-

The federal government says the repercussions for public servants who refuse to return to work in person will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Starting Monday, all federal employees still working from home will begin transitioning to in-person work.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier announced last month that all departments must bring workers back to the office at least two to three times a week by the end of March.

In an interview on Thursday, she did not specify what the consequences might be for anyone who refuses to return.

“Those who do not comply by the end of March, management (will) decide whether or not they face disciplinary action, but each situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Fortier said.

Fortier said the back-to-office plan was necessary because of “inconsistencies” in federal departments’ remote work policies. She did not elaborate on what those inconsistencies were in an interview with The Canadian Press and did not say whether the federal government had any data to illustrate those inconsistencies. Instead, she said fairness and equity are the principles guiding the hybrid work model.

Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said people are ready to return to the office if they receive a clear answer as to why it is necessary.

“Our members are completely confused,” said Aylward, whose union represents 165,000 federal workers.

He said he regularly hears from members about their difficulties obtaining childcare and their reluctance to spend hours of their day commuting if they can work productively from home.

“The government (must) stop this right away and come to the bargaining table so we can negotiate this, make it part of the collective agreement, so that our members’ rights are protected,” Aylward said.

The union is actively negotiating with Treasury Board and the PSAC believes that any rules regarding hybrid work should be established at the bargaining table. However, those talks are not progressing well, with both sides filing separate labor complaints against the other.


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 13, 2023.


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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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