26 July 2013 - Statement by the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers: PAFSO Responds to Government's Rejection of Arbitration
Shortly before noon today, PAFSO received a letter from the President of the Treasury Board in which he rejected our offer of binding arbitration. Minister Clement’s decision was based on the grounds that PAFSO would not accept all six of the preconditions he wanted to impose on the arbitration process.
The Canadian public must understand two key facts:
Two of Treasury Board’s preconditions 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. Specifically, they wanted to exclude from consideration any mention of other professional groups in government who perform the same work as us – often in neighbouring offices – which has been at the heart of our position since day one.
PAFSO made a reasonable and responsible effort at finding common ground by accepting two of the six preconditions, and committing to a goodwill gesture – a suspension of service withdrawals while arbitration is ongoing – which would have satisfied a third.
Let us be clear: PAFSO has not rejected binding arbitration. We offered it in the first place. We agreed to pursue it even with three of Treasury Board’s preconditions. This offer still stands.
If Minister Clement truly believes his offer is “fair and reasonable”, he would not have shied away from arbitration without preconditions. Rather, he would have welcomed the opportunity to submit his offer to independent scrutiny. Instead, he sought to stack the deck in his favour by cherry-picking criteria which would have favoured Treasury Board’s position. He is trying to tilt the playing field to the Government’s advantage, and is clearly uninterested in a fair contest.
The Government has reached tentative agreements in two other long-outstanding contract negotiations during the last month, and will return to the table on Monday to address a third. PAFSO is one of the smallest unions in the federal government. Equal pay for our members could be achieved for $4.2 million – 1.5% of the impact this strike is having on the tourism sector alone. PAFSO can only conclude that the Government is behaving prejudicially toward the Foreign Service and is therefore negotiating in bad faith. This should be of serious concern to all Canadians.
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: Abu Dhabi, Ankara, Beijing, Cairo, Delhi/Chandigarh, Hong Kong, London, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Riyadh, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai.
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. PAFSO has made every reasonable effort to resolve this situation; the Government has not. PAFSO encourages all individuals, businesses, and industry associations with a stake in the outcome of our dispute to intervene with the Government and urge them to bargain freely and flexibly with their own employees.
PAFSO’s recent exchanges with Treasury Board are below for background.
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18-07-13 PAFSO Letter to TBS
23-7-13 TBS Letter to PAFSO
24-7-13 PAFSO Letter to TBS
26-7-13 TBS Letter to PAFSO
26-7-13 PAFSO Letter to TBS