Striking diplomats reach tentative agreement with Ottawa
Canadian foreign service officers picket the Prime Minister's Office in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, September 26, 2013 5:52PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:00PM EDT
Canada’s striking foreign service workers have reached a settlement with the federal government.
In separate statements, Treasury Board president Tony Clement and Tim Edwards, president of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) announced they had signed a tentative agreement Thursday.
“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,” Clement said.
The details of the agreement were not released.
The 1,350 foreign service officers have been without a contract since mid-2011, and have been in legal strike position since April 2013.
In a statement posted on PAFSO’s website, Edwards said the settlement was reached “through compromise on both sides.”
“We salute the spirit of constructive engagement which our employer brought to our latest discussions,” he said. “This deal is a victory for free and fair bargaining in the federal public service.”
With the signing of the agreement, PAFSO has ordered an “immediate suspension” of strike and work-to-rule measures by its members.
Diplomats on various foreign missions have been picketing and staging rotating walkouts since June.
In late July, about 150 foreign officers were on strike in the 15 largest immigration processing centres – including Beijing, New Delhi, Mexico City and London.
Workers took job action by targeting the processing of international visas, which drew concern about a backlog in student visas.
According to PAFSO, the strike was the longest in the federal public service since collective bargaining was introduced in the 1960s.
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar welcomed the settlement but criticized the Conservatives for their handling of the bargaining process.
“This labour dispute could have been completely avoided, if the Conservatives had chosen to engage in good-faith bargaining rather than discrediting our diplomats,” he said.
He also said Canada’s international profile depends on the dedication of foreign service officers.
“Our diplomats take on personal risk and hardship in being posted abroad – they deserve our respect and gratitude for their service to the country.”
Earlier this month, the Public Service Labour Relations Board ruled that the Treasury Board had bargained in bad faith, and urged the two sides to go back to the bargaining table.
The tentative agreement must be ratified by PAFSO’s membership and approved by the full Treasury Board.