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Canadian foreign service officers on strike

July 30, 2013

For the past four months, Canadian foreign service officers running the operations of the country's embassies around the world have been in a bitter dispute with the federal government. The Toronto Star reported that diplomats are protesting that their wages are significantly lower than those of other civil servants with equivalent responsibilities, while Ottawa authorities claim that this is not the case. This difference of opinion culminated in disruptions to services at Canadian embassies when workers began a full-on strike on July 29. The issues raised by this strike may be the subject of phone conversations conducted with international calling cards.

According to the news source, the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) is representing the strikers, and claims that visa processing may fall by more than 10,000 applications per week. Currently, about 150 Canadian diplomats in 15 immigration processing centers are on strike, including those in London, New Delhi, Beijing, Mexico City, Paris, Moscow, Cairo and Sao Paolo.

Fox News reported that in the PAFSO official statement regarding this matter, organizational representatives claim that the strike is a necessary inconvenience. 

"We take no pleasure whatsoever in these strike actions and their real, severe and mounting effects on the Canadian economy," the statement read. The government - specifically the Treasury Board and its president, Tony Clement - roundly rejected the PAFSO offer of binding arbitration, which the strikers contend would have put this issue to rest.

PAFSO claims that foreign service officers make as much as $14,000 less on an annual basis than other Canadian federal employees. After making its request for binding arbitration that it claimed would remedy the disparity, the government claimed that PAFSO's offer would only be accepted if an arbitrator couldn't compare diplomat's wages to others in civil service  - the primary basis of the union's dispute. When Clement learned that the union had revealed these details to media, he became even more determined not to accept any offer, saying that he would not "fold like a $3 suitcase," according to the Toronto Star.

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