Canadian foreign service officers protest in front of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Friday, May 3, 2013.
Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

Foreign service strike may go to arbitration


On-going job action by Canada’s foreign service officers has caused long delays in processing visa and immigration applications abroad but that might end if the dispute goes to binding arbitration. About 150 officers have walked out of 15 of the busiest processing centres including Beijing, New Delhi, Mexico City and London.

An arbiter will hear arguments on August 22 and consider whether the government has been bargaining in bad faith as the union alleges. If so, he or she would then order the government to adjust its position and would send the two sides back to the bargaining table or might sent them to binding arbitration. A decision would likely come quickly after the hearing.

Diplomats could suspend strike action

If the dispute does go to binding arbitration there are chances the foreign service officers could suspend their strike action.

The diplomats are demanding parity with other government employees who do work they say is comparable to theirs. “You’ll have economists, lawyers, commerce officers and foreign officers all working side by side on, say, a trade negotiation with Europe or dispute with China for example,” said Colin Robertson, retired senior Canadian diplomat and former president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers.

Former diplomat and union president
Colin Robertson thinks diplomats’ parity
argument is “legitimate.”

“The foreign service officer looks and says ‘how come this guy is making significantly more, this woman is making significantly more than I am’ and that’s a legitimate argument.”

The government argues the jobs are not comparable. Robertson says the difference in salary can be as much as $15,000 a year and that, in the past, other public service unions have bargained harder and got better deals than the diplomats’ union and that now it is determined to catch up.

Robertson feels the government may be driving a hard bargain with the diplomats to set the example for several public service unions whose collective agreements expire next year.

Tourism, students, Canada lose

Meanwhile the tourist industry says it stands to lose over a quarter of a million dollars because some visitors were unable to get visas to come to Canada.

Many universities have made provisions for students having difficulty getting or extending their visas. For example, McGill University has extended the date by which students have to arrive in class to September 17 or it has offered to defer their admission to a later term. The Canadian government is encouraging students to apply for visas on line because the process is faster. U.S. citizens may apply for their study permits at the ports of entry and no advance application is required.

Some well qualified immigrants may have changed their plans to come to Canada, suggests Robertson. He says there is stiff competition among western countries which need immigrants and that Canada could find itself on the losing end.

Statement from Citizenship and Immigration Canada: “All visa offices remain open and continue to provide service to clients. Every visa office maintains a core number of staff that have been deemed “essential.” Over 1,000 locally engaged staff continue to work in the visas offices overseas, and CIC has hired additional staff on a temporary basis to help process visas both overseas and in Canada. Moreover, CIC is providing training on an urgent basis so that more staff can process applications, and is requesting that staff work overtime where possible. CIC is also shifting more work to Canada and to overseas offices that have additional capacity…

“To prevent additional delays, applicants can also:

– Submit their temporary visa applications (visitors, students and workers) online.

– Submit their visa applications, documents and fees to Visa Application Centres (VACs).”

Posted in Economy, International

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10 comments on “Foreign service strike may go to arbitration
  1. Samina Tahira says:

    Plz let us know latest about strick. Its 24 months I am waiting for visa,the key to go my husband. Plz just give real story of strick.

  2. Colin Bale says:

    I have been waiting since 28 months now for this issue to be resolved but i know everything will be well by God grace as i have faith in God almighty. They will soon call off the strike by September ending in jesus name . An amicable resolution would have been founded to the issue.

  3. Indie says:

    Anybody listening us I am waiting my i laws since 2006 finally after five year they dine their medical waiting for visa then strike happens medical was done April now we are waiting last five month their visa next month dad s passport expiring but New Delhi has it after that their medical expiring me and my husband both working hardly raising three kids 6, 3, 1 yeAr ole little one we do need need bug help even my daughter is special needs kid I doing why they are not thinking people lives I wish they should have same problems in their lives then they might understand how people going through these situations
    Everybody showing their powers they can do whatever’s but playing around other people feelings

  4. Samir says:

    Yeh…Human-rights are well respected but humanity is absent…in canada

  5. ST says:

    It`s been 18 months now since my husband and I have been apart. I think it`s safe to say that I`ve lost my faith in this country and feel no obligation to remain here and contribute to it in any way financially in the future.

    • Danica says:

      My husband and I have been apart since December 2012 and its absolutely terrible. I can’t imagine 18 months, all my prayers and support to you. We are not criminals, we have not done anything wrong. We are married and want to be together and get on with life. No other country is so incredibly useless when it comes to reading between the lines and seeing plain and simple a couple that is in love and deserve to be together without all the nonsense. Figure it out Canada, we can do better than this.

  6. Adriana says:

    Any news regarding the Arbitration?

  7. Jean says:

    I’m getting really frustrated with this strike. I don’t believe it is true that CIC had hired local contractors to continue processing visas—I think it is just a press release. I asked my MP twice to follow it up for us especially that there is a massive flooding in the Phiiippines and my husband is affected by it, but it made no difference on the processing of our application. Either that they just don’t care or that there is no one to actually process the visas.
    I hope both parties involved in this strike will stop this madness already. The actual victims are us, the tax payers.

  8. Chordsoflove says:

    I hope this will soon have an end and they will come to an agreement. I am waiting for my husband for 9 months now (sponsoring Mexico VO).

  9. donya says:

    I don’t know why no one concern about immigrant in family class! I sponsored my husband, process takes 16 months in Ankara branch normally and now with this strike I don’t know when can I see my husband again. It’s really frustrating that I have to leave here in canada alone 🙁 please update the news about this strike.