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The Cable

Canadian Foreign Service officers picket embassy

If your calls to the Canadian Embassy in Washington weren’t returned today, there’s a good reason — officers at  the Canadian Foreign Service spent part of the afternoon picketing outside their own building. About 30 members of the Canadian Foreign Service took to the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday afternoon to protest their treatment from ...

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If your calls to the Canadian Embassy in Washington weren’t returned today, there’s a good reason — officers at  the Canadian Foreign Service spent part of the afternoon picketing outside their own building.

About 30 members of the Canadian Foreign Service took to the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday afternoon to protest their treatment from Ottawa. The "information pickets," as they called them, are the first of a series of actions Canadian Foreign Service officers will be taking at embassies around the world, if the treasury board that controls their pay doesn’t come back to the negotiating table.

"We’ve decide enough is enough — we’re drawing a line in the sand," Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) President Tim Edwards told The Cable in an interview Friday.

The strikers’ chief complaint is that Canadian Foreign Service officers make less than other professionals working in the Canadian government and Canadian embassies, such as lawyers, economists, and administrative professionals.

"If you expect us to promote fairness as a Canadian value, then we expect it to apply to us as well," Edwards said.

The Canadian Foreign Service has been working without a contract since April 2011, and the strikers say that despite the unilateral concessions they’ve made, such as accepting a pay raise of only 1.5 percent and forgoing severance packages, the government hasn’t budged on the equal-pay issue.

As the first stage of their protest, the embassy Foreign Service officers have since February been implementing what they call "work to rule," which means they have been working exactly as much as they are required and no more, clocking in 7.5 hours per day and turning off their Blackberries after work.

They have technically been in "strike position" since April 2, but haven’t actually gone on full strike yet. Today’s picketing was an interim step.

"The idea is to simply to add another point of pressure on the treasury board to come back to the table to discuss equal pay for equal work," said Edwards.

If today’s action doesn’t yield results, similar picketing will occur in major Canadian embassies around the world, he said. The option to strike is under serious consideration.

"We don’t want it come to that, but that is a potential avenue in the weeks ahead," he said. "We’re just looking for a fair shake here."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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