We understand that Ontario Public Service (OPS) employees will begin returning to work in person this week on a voluntary basis, and that they will be expected to be in their workplaces at least three days a week starting April 4.
We also understand that this hybrid arrangement is temporary, and that OPSEU/SEFPO and other bargaining agents will be part of discussions towards arriving at permanent working arrangements.
OPSEU/SEFPO supports a return to work in person, provided it is done in the flexible, gradual and, above all, safe manner that the government has promised in its announcement.
We want to point out that many OPSEU/SEFPO members in the OPS never left their workplaces; due to the nature of their work, they were not able to work from home.
We are concerned with the government’s implementation of an immediate and obligatory return of three days weekly come April. Families and employees need time to adjust to their new schedules and ensure their pre-COVID supports are in place. Fewer obligatory days in the office, initially, would be more sensitive to their needs. With such a large workforce with multiple locations to consider, returning to work in a way that doesn’t allow for flexibility could be problematic.
OPSEU/SEFPO is most concerned about the safety of our members. They should have adequate time to adjust to working from their offices again. It goes without saying that any members who are sick must not be pressured to come to the office and risk spreading their illness to others.
We applaud the government for including bargaining agents in discussions. OPSEU/SEFPO is working to ensure the health and best interests of our members in the OPS and the broader public sector are vigorously protected.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU/SEFPO
Neil Martin, Chair, Central Employee Relations Committee (CERC)