Canada’s foreign service officers and Treasury Board remain at odds

Union files bad-faith bargaining complaint with labour board

Canada’s foreign service workers, who walked off the job at the end of May, have filed a complaint with the labour board against the federal government.

On July 31, the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) union — which represents foreign service workers such as diplomats serving at Canadian embassies across the world — filed a bad-faith bargaining complaint at the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB). The union argued in its complaint that the Treasury Board of Canada refused to enter into binding arbitration to resolve the labour dispute.

“Our 1,350 members are profoundly disappointed with the government’s refusal to take the responsible way out of this dispute,” said president of PAFSO, Tim Edwards. “By rejecting our offer of arbitration, they seem intent on prolonging this strike — at enormous cost to Canadian tourism companies, educational institutions, airlines, and agricultural producers. Their course of action defies reason and common sense.”

Edwards added that PAFSO accepted three of the six conditions the board sought to impose on free arbitration. One of the union’s key concerns has been equal pay for equal work, in comparison to other federal employees.

But Minister Tony Clement, who heads the Treasury Board, released a statement saying that PAFSO’s demands are unreasonable.

“We are disappointed that PAFSO was so quick to reject our willingness to enter into a binding arbitration process that the union itself requested,” he said. “In the past month, the government has reached tentative agreements with two unions representing aviation inspectors and correctional officers. These deals were reached because the bargaining agents' approaches were fair and reasonable. In contrast, PAFSO continues to insist on making unreasonable comparisons between substantively different jobs in the public service.”

Of particular concern has been the potential for disruption for tourists and visa-seekers abroad, where Clement insisted it’s business as usual. Edwards said foreign service workers are prepared to strike through the summer and well into the fall, if necessary.

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