OPSEU/SEFPO leaders are commending the heads of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) for their prompt action and flexibility over concerns from unionized staff about return to workplace plans. The OPS announced changes to the plan last week, which clarified health and safety precautions.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed his appreciation to the Head of the OPS, Michelle DiEmanuele, for her willingness to listen, consider workers’ concerns, and change course.
“When employers and unions work together to prioritize the health and safety of workers, everyone wins,” said Thomas. “This pandemic has changed how we work, and the updated return to workplace plan now reflects that, while considering members’ health and safety needs and family responsibilities.”
OPSEU/SEFPO represents 26,000 members working in the Ontario Public Service, many of whom have been working remotely for the duration of the pandemic. In response to the union’s feedback that employees and families require time to adjust their schedules and put pre-pandemic supports in place, the plan was updated to have staff return to the workplace 1-2 days a week from April 4, building up to a minimum of three days a week by May 16.
The updated return to workplace plan also promised a comprehensive plan for hybrid work arrangements, developed with feedback from employees, by September 2022.
Neil Martin, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Central Employee Relations Committee (CERC) representing the OPS Unified Division, called the updated plan a positive direction for members, noting that the transition will require ongoing open communication between OPSEU/SEFPO members and the employer.
“As we figure out how to live and work with this virus existing in society, there will inevitably be bumps along the road,” said Martin. “Our members and management alike are finding their way through this pandemic. We value the positive relationship we have built with the employer and encourage all members to speak to their managers about their needs for safely returning to the workplace as the transition progresses.”