On August 19, 2020, we sent a letter to Minister Anand demanding a stop to the office conversion process until COVID-related health issues have been eradicated from federal workplaces.
We have raised this matter on a number of occasions over the past few months. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to obtain an answer regarding the failure of the Return to Workplace protocol to take the lessons learned during the pandemic into consideration in the design of future government workplaces.
The unions of the National Joint Council (NJC) Bargaining Agents share our concern and our letter was submitted on their behalf.
We have recently received information from our members that the federal public service is planning to continue with these conversions in years ahead. In one particularly alarming case, some of them were given a presentation about an upcoming conversion where they were told not to worry because “only half of you will be in these offices anyway” and “everything will be cleaned regularly so you’ll be fine.” This kind of cavalier approach is entirely inappropriate.
Planning for future conversions must also include much more rigorous health protocols, as well as meaningful consultations with Bargaining Agents. In the majority of cases now, we are not being consulted in the development of the open office design.
For years, we have opposed open office design based on the well-documented health, noise and productivity impacts on workers. In the context of the pandemic, we are now concerned that the federal public service is using this as an opportunity to further reduce its real estate footprint squeezing more workers into ever-smaller open areas. This will only exacerbate health and safety issues.