Canadian foreign service in strike mode


(Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

“Thank you for your message,” the embassy responded. “Following a breakdown in contract negotiations with the Government of Canada, members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers are now in a legal strike position and are working to rule. As a result, there may be a noticeable delay in responding to your inquiry. We regret any inconvenience.”

“Working to rule” means Canada’s 1,300 foreign service officers aren’t doing things like staying after hours, responding to office e-mails from home, are leaving Blackberries at work and so forth.

The foreign service folks say they’re unhappy because the government in recent negotiations says it wants to keep paying them much less — as much as $10,000 less — than other federal workers in similar jobs. In addition, promotions have seemed to disappear.

And other workers don’t face the need to move regularly, to have their kids change schools, to live in war zones and so forth.

Other federal worker unions are reported to be confronting the Conservative party government over their contracts. The government has threatened to discipline or even fire the foreign service workers for allegedly misusing their e-mail accounts to talk about the strike.

But the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade e-mailed us Friday that “no disciplinary measures have been taken” and they’re working to meet with the union to “discuss this ongoing issue.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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