A compromise may have been reached between Canadian foreign affairs officers and Ottawa. Since June, 2011, members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) have been on strike demanding wages and benefits that are more proportional with their job description.
Since April 2nd of this year, they have conducted a legal strike with support from other major unions, namely the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). The activities of the 1,350 PAFSO strikers, which included rallies, picketing, and walk-outs, resulted in the withdrawal of many immigration and embassy services around the world. 150 foreign offices were on strike in July, including major processing centres such as London, Beijing, Mexico City and New Delhi. A large backlog in Canadian visa applications has resulted.
The union is requesting a pay increase for its officers which would raise incomes to a level comparable to those of government employees in other sectors where similar services are offered.
last week, Treasury Board President, Tony Clement, revealed the signing of a tentative deal. “The settlement represents the efforts of both parties to reach an agreement that is aligned with what was accepted by other public- and private-sector employees,” he announced. Details are not yet released, but PAFSO President, Tim Edwards, reported a compromise on both sides. In optimistic tones, he named the deal “a victory for free and fair bargaining in the federal public service.”
PAFSO has acknowledged their strike as the longest in federal public service since the adoption of collective bargaining rights in the 1960’s. Yet it has ordered an immediate suspension of strike and work-to-rule activity with the advent of the new deal signing. However, before any conclusive decisions, the tentative accord must be ratified by the union membership and approved by the full Treasury Board.
“This labour dispute could have been completely avoided, if the Conservatives had chosen to engage in good-faith bargaining rather than discrediting our diplomats,” said NDP Foreign Affairs Critic, Paul Dewar, who alluded to a ruling by the Public Service Labour Relations Board, which found that the government’s negotiations with the union had been in bad faith.
Dewar also maintained that Canada’s international reputation is closely linked with the dedication of its foreign service officers, and that they are owed respect in return for their commitment. It is hoped that a concrete agreement is forthcoming.