Union questions Ontario's return-to-office plans

'Employees shouldn't be finding out when they're due back through news outlets'

Union questions Ontario's return-to-office plans

A union is raising questions about the Ontario government’s plans to return to the workplace.

“Ontario Public Service employees shouldn’t be finding out when they’re due back in the workplace through news outlets,” says AMAPCEO president Dave Bulmer, referring to a March 1 CTV News article.

“They deserve to hear it directly from their employer first.”

Employees are expected back at the office on April 4, for a minimum of three days a week.

But this plan “represents a departure” from the Graduated Return to OPS Workplaces Plan (GROW) meant to ensure the government made decisions that prioritize the health and well-being of members, says the union.

AMAPCEO says it is awaiting further details of the return-to-work plan “to make sure it is as flexible, gradual, and safe, as they first promised.”

The requirement for employees to provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing will also be lifted on April 4, according to the Toronto Star, citing an internal announcement.

While public health authorities may lift vaccine restrictions, employment lawyers caution employers on doing the same.

Temporary arrangement

The return of roughly 29,000 employees to a hybrid arrangement is not permanent, according to Ontario Secretary of Cabinet Michelle DiEmanuele, in a memo cited by the union.

“This is a temporary hybrid model. Work is underway with leaders, employees, and bargaining agents on the future of work,” he wrote. “We are doing this work with intentionality and thoughtful planning. We will take an approach that is adaptable, sustainable, equitable and enables us to deliver excellent public services that Ontarians rely on.”

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In September 2021, Google announced it was extending its global “voluntary return-to-office policy” through Jan. 10, 2022 to give workers flexibility and choice as they ramp back. Months later, the company said it would wait until 2022 to assess when U.S. offices can safely return to a “stable, long-term working environment,” according to a report.

Microsoft is getting back to the office, fully opening its new Silicon Valley campus on Feb. 28 along with other California sites.

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