Phoenix

Phoenix, mental health and maintaining work/life balance

The headlines surrounding Phoenix have, to this point, focused on pay problems. What has often been overlooked is the effect Phoenix has had on the FI Community’s mental health, with increased workloads and the ever-present fear of further pay disruptions causing understandable stress. ACFO’s Labour Relations team is here to help.

The FI Community has been historically and chronically understaffed, so not only are Phoenix problems affecting your wallets, but you’re also being drawn into the chaos through an increased workload. According to the FI Community Phoenix Impact Study, more than 50% of FIs reported an increased workload due to Phoenix. Furthermore, this increased stress from both pay problems and an increased workload led to 40% of FIs reporting Phoenix is affecting their mental health.

The impact study has made it clear that a good percentage of FIs are dealing with high levels of stress, so if you feel like you’re unable to cope, you have several options available to you. Sick leave and the Employee Assistance Program exist for this very reason, so you have the option of taking leave or calling the 24-hour Crisis and Referral Centre at 1-800-268-7708 for confidential support.

Alternatively, with your permission, we can approach senior management on your behalf to advocate for the following to maintain a proper work/life balance:

  • Accommodation: Under Article 46 of the collective agreement (No Discrimination), no employee shall be discriminated against. Should you suffer from a mental illness or have family obligations, your employer has the duty to accommodate.
  • Overtime: You may decline to work overtime, particularly if you haven’t received four hours’ notice (Article 19), and keep a diligent record of all overtime hours worked so no hour goes unclaimed.
  • Compressed work week: Working compressed hours and having an extra day off can help alleviate stress tremendously. An ACFO Labour Relations Advisor can help you put a case together for requesting a compressed work week or for another form of flexible work, such as telework (read more here).
  • Workload and duties: A Labour Relations Advisor can also facilitate an informal discussion with senior management about reprioritizing other work, about your essential job functions and whether or not working with Phoenix falls into those essential duties. Should you wish to take a formal recourse, we can file a grievance under Article 49 (Statement of Duties), which may see your position re-classified to a higher pay grade or relieve you of duties below your pay grade.
  • Staffing: Throughout these formal and informal discussions with management, we emphasize the overarching solution of hiring more staff. Part of the discussion with these actions highlight the lack of proper staffing, so more often than not, hiring more people is an easier solution than managing individual cases.

It’s going to take time and hard work to fix Phoenix, and in the meantime, it is and will continue to be ACFO’s top priority. We have been filing grievances, lobbying with MPs and senior management at PSPC with the impact study results in-hand, speaking to the media (most recently CBC, Radio-Canada and Metro Ottawa) and doing absolutely everything in our power to help the FI Community navigate the Phoenix debacle.

For more information, or for anyone who would like assistance with alleviating their workload or stress levels due to Phoenix issues, you may contact Labour Relations at labourrelations@acfo-acaf.com. One of our Labour Relations Advisors will be in contact with you about your options.

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