CBC News July 26th 2013:
Striking foreign service officers are withdrawing all services at Canada’s 15 biggest visa processing centres abroad starting Monday, following a failed attempt to go to arbitration to settle the bitter contract dispute with the government.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, the union representing the officers, said Friday that Treasury Board President Tony Clement had rejected its offer of binding arbitration because the union wouldn’t accept the conditions Clement attached to the offer.
The union began staging rotating job actions in the spring at different embassies and visa processing centres at different times, which has slowed down work abroad but not completely stopped it. Now the union is stepping up its pressure on the government.
“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,” PAFSO said in a statement.
The centres are:
- Abu Dhabi.
- Hong Kong.
- Mexico City.
- Sao Paulo.
“We take no pleasure whatsoever in these strike actions and their real, severe, and mounting effects on the Canadian economy. But it should now be evident to all Canadians that from this point forward the government of Canada bears sole and complete responsibility for these impacts,” the union said.
The tourism sectors and education institutions and organizations have been vocal with their concerns about the foreign service strike because of its impact already on the processing of visas. PAFSO encouraged them and others Friday to urge the government to “bargain freely and flexibly.”
After the last round of negotiation broke down with no resolution and weeks went by with no talks scheduled, the union proposed to the government that they go to binding arbitration. The government then responded that it would agree, only if the union accepted certain conditions. It wanted the conditions kept confidential.
But in its statement Friday PAFSO shared some of the conditions and said two of them were “so paralyzing that their acceptance would have predetermined the outcome of arbitration in the government’s favour and negated the purpose and integrity of the process.”