Canadian diplomats demonstrating in Washington May 3, 2012.
Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP

Strike by Canadian diplomats worldwide – ends

For latest update (“tentative agreement” September 26) see below
(June 7, 2013) After weeks of sporadic and limited work actions, Canadian diplomats have started worldwide strikes after negotiations fell apart with their employer, the Canadian government.

“After nearly two years of negotiations and a four-month hiatus in talks, the Government returned to the table with the same position they presented back in the fall of 2011,” says Tim Edwards, President of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), in a press release Thursday (June 6, 2013).

Tim Edwards, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (Photo: Charles DharapakAP)

“It goes against every instinct in our body,” said Tim Edwards, president of PAFSO in an April interview with RCI. (Photo: Charles DharapakAP)

“The Government’s unwillingness to compromise is an affront to the principles of free and fair bargaining, and to the tremendous value and dedication Foreign Service Officers offer to Canadians and their elected representatives,” said Edwards.

The association started with work-to-rule tactics, no overtime, not answering e-mails after 5PM, leaving cell phones at work. That followed with information pickets in Ottawa, then Washington.

The association wants parity with public servants in Canada who do similar work to theirs. It says the diplomats make thousands of dollars less than others in the public service. This even though, postings abroad bring all kinds of extra financial challenges that public servants in Ottawa do not have to face.

A PAFSO spokesperson confirmed late Friday that all Foreign Service Officers in London, Ireland and Paris (not OECD) have withdrawn services. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in London on Tuesday and goes to Paris and Dublin before a G8 summit in Ireland.

The withdrawal of services affects Canadian immigration departments in Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, and Chandigarth.

All Foreign Service officers have withdrawn services from Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Washington and the EU in Brussels.

More information:
PAFSO press release – Canada’s Foreign Service Officers walk off job in Ottawa and around the world – here
PAFSO text ‘Why is Canada’s foreign service on strike?’ – here
RCI interview with Tim Edwards PAFSO President (audio from April 25, 2013) – here



Update: Wednesday, June 12, 2013
In addition to the job actions already mentioned above, all Foreign Service immigration officers in Mexico City began withholding services on Tuesday, June 11. Info – here More pickets and more service withdrawals are planned later this week.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website has a notice of visa delays due to strikes – here

In other related news, the 2013 Canadian Foreign Service Officer Awards will be announced at a dinner hosted by PAFSO in Ottawa on Thursday, June 13, 2013. The awards were created in 1990 by PAFSO to recognize exceptional achievement by career Foreign Service Officers.

Update: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Canadian diplomats picketed outside the UK Parliament in London today as Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived to deliver his speech before the British Parliament and the House of Lords. They also ‘Come Together’ on Abbey Road:

Striking Canadian diplomats on Abbey Road (Photo: PAFSO)

Striking Canadian diplomats on Abbey Road (Photo: PAFSO)

Update: Thursday, June 20, 2013
In a press release Wednesday, June 19, PAFSO updated where its members were striking: “Manila, Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chongqing and Astana. Immigration officers are striking in Delhi, Chandigarh, London, Moscow and Mexico City. In Tokyo, economic officers are also on strike. Additional withdrawals of service are impacting dozens of divisions at CIC [Citizenship and Immigration Canada] and DFAIT [Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade] headquarters in Ottawa.”

“The escalated scope and intensity of service withdrawals this month are a direct consequence of the federal government’s refusal to engage meaningfully with its employees on the issue of pay equity,” said Tim Edwards, PAFSO President in the press release. “While we’re eager to get back to work, these disruptions will continue until the Treasury Board offers a fair deal to our members.”

Edwards adds: “Resolving this situation would cost less than 2.5% of the total Foreign Service payroll – a tiny fraction of the economic impact that the Government’s inflexibility is creating,”

On Tuesday (June 18) Huffington Post Canada published a letter from Edwards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper titled “The Canadian Diplomats’ Strike is About Fairness, Mr. Harper” See here

On Thursday (June 20) PAFSO organized an information picket outside of the Treasury Board Secretariat in Ottawa.

The central issue of the conflict continues to be the diplomats wanting parity with public servants in Canada who do similar work to theirs.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada on its website continues to warn of visa delays. See statement here. There appears to be no specific information on the disruptions on the website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Update: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
More than 100 Canadian diplomats picketed outside the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa at the Langevin block Tuesday (June 25) during the lunch hour.

“This picket is meant to stress to the Prime Minister our deep frustration with the Government’s lack of meaningful engagement in contract negotiations,” said PAFSO president Tim Edwards in a press communique released before the picketing.

Update: Thursday, July 18, 2013
PAFSO offers binding arbitration to Canadian government:
“In light of the severe and mounting impacts of job action by Canada’s Foreign Service on our country’s tourism, education, air transport, and agriculture sectors – to say nothing of the effects which delays in visa and immigrant processing are inflicting on applicants and their families around the world – PAFSO has today offered the President of the Treasury Board to take our dispute to binding third-party arbitration.”

“PAFSO’s offer will expire at noon on Tuesday, July 23. If we do not receive acceptance in writing from the employer by then, we will deem the Government to have rejected the offer.” More information – here

Update: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Just before the PAFSO deadline, federal cabinet minister Tony Clement accepted binding arbitration “subject to certain conditions” which were not revealed in the press release. In that same release, the following statement: “We continue to take steps to ensure the timely processing of visas.”

Later in the day, PAFSO released a statement thanking the government for its decision: “PAFSO appreciates the Government’s attempt at finding a resolution to this dispute and remains hopeful that a responsible way forward can be agreed upon by both parties.”

The statement also suggested PAFSO would have to review the conditions proposed by Minister Clement: “PAFSO is reviewing these conditions and will follow up directly with the Treasury Board. PAFSO will need to assure itself that any arbitration mechanism allows for a full and fair hearing of arguments on both sides – an objective we are sure the Government shares.” More information – here

On its Twitter account, PAFSO President Tim Edwards wrote “Until conditions for arbitration resolved with Govt, no change in @PafsoApase‘s #dipstrike measures.”

Update: Friday, July 26, 2013
Talks between PAFSO and the government fell apart as it became public that one of the conditions the government set for accepting the association’s offer of binding arbitration was actually the key issue in the negotiations: parity with public servants in Ottawa who do similar work to the diplomats. (For more information see here.)

As a result of this, and with regret, PAFSO announced that on July 29, services would be withdrawn from Canada’s 15 largest visa processing centres:

Effective Monday, in order to persuade the Government that binding arbitration remains the responsible way forward to resolve our dispute, PAFSO members will withdraw all services until further notice at Canada’s fifteen largest visa processing centres abroad: Abu Dhabi, Ankara, Beijing, Cairo, Delhi/Chandigarh, Hong Kong, London, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Riyadh, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai.

Update: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Using the Twitter hashtag #FSatwork [Foreign Service at work] striking Canadian diplomats gave people a chance to see some of the things their colleagues were doing on Tuesday as part of their duties as diplomats in embassies and consulates around the world.

Update: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The striking diplomats at a hearing of the Public Service Labour Relations Board presented their position that the government is bargaining in bad faith. PAFSO says when it asked for binding arbitration, the government responded with a set of conditions that basically predetermined the outcome. The diplomats want parity with public sector workers in Ottawa who do similar work.

Both sides presented their positions Wednesday to the Public Service Labour Relations Board – a date for a decision is not known.

Update: Friday, September 13, 2013
The Public Service Labour Relations Board has ruled the Canadian government has been bargaining in bad faith in its negotiations with striking diplomats: The government “violated its duty to bargain collectively in good faith and make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement,” concluded the board.

The board did not recommend any remedial action on the part of the federal government. It “encourage[s]” all sides to “renew their attempts at arriving at a mutually agreeable process under which final and binding determination … can be used to break their impasse, in the event that their inability to resolve their differences at the bargaining table continues.”

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, the president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) Tim Edwards said:  “Today’s decision shows it is time for the Prime Minister and the Government to do the responsible thing and reach a negotiated settlement which would put an end to this damaging strike.”

What happens next is not clear.

Interview on Friday, September 13, 2013, with PAFSO president Tim Edwards about the ruling and the strike – here

Update: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Diplomats are holding a mass walkout at the headquarters of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) to protest the decision of Canadian government to appeal the ruling of the Public Service Labour Relations Board on a complaint by the diplomats that the government was negotiating in bad faith. The ruling confirmed it was, and suggested the two sides get back to negotiating. The government has opted to appeal the ruling.

Earlier this summer, the lead minister in the the negotiations, Treasury Board President Tony Clement tweeted the following:

Details of Canadian government’s request to Federal Court of Canada to set aside the Labour Board’s ruling because it was “unreasonable” and “without foundation” – here

Update: Wednesday, September 26, 2013

The Canadian government and striking diplomats have reached a “tentative” agreement. PAFSO, the union representing the diplomats, says it “has ordered an immediate suspension of all strike measures and work to rule.”

Statement from Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) – here
Statement from Minister Tony Clement, President Treasury Board – here


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