Canadian embassy strikes come to an end

October 01, 2013

Canada‘s federal government and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (Pafso) have announced a tentative compromise agreement, signalling the end of a six-month labour dispute that has caused disruption for international education providers in the county and study abroad agents.

Following the tentative agreement, Pafso announced an immediate suspension of all strike measures, which it said has been the longest federal public service strike since the introduction of collective bargaining in 1967. Pafso commenced rotating industrial action at visa offices around the world in April following a dispute over pay for its members. The union has committed to clearing any backlogs caused by the strike.

“We are pleased that the government has recognised the tremendous value and dedication which foreign service officers provide to Canadians and their elected representatives,” said Pafso President Tim Edwards. “It has been a hard-fought battle and I would like to salute the unity, resolve and stamina of our members in securing a fair and equitable deal. We‘re excited to get back to the work we love, promoting and protecting Canada‘s values and interests abroad.”

The tentative agreement still needs to be ratified by both the Pafso membership and the government‘s full treasury board.

Tony Clement, Treasury Board President, said, “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.”

Language school association Languages Canada welcomed the resolution. Guillaum Dubreuil, Manager of International Affairs and Marketing, said in a statement. “Languages Canada is very happy to hear this news, especially as it comes on the eve of the upcoming international trade missions and other promotional activities. We look forward to the situation returning to normal for our members, partners and especially for students looking to come and study in Canada.”

As previously reported, the strike impacted on international education and the issuance of student visas. The Russian market in particular suffered from delays, with one agent suggesting in a letter to STM that some agents could abandon Canada as a summer junior destination.

Although the full impact on academic enrolments for the autumn semester was not yet clear, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) reported making some contingency plans for late-arriving students. According to the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver School Board said visa processing delays caused around 100 international students to miss the first day of its orientation programme at the end of August.

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