Diplomats escalate job action to 15 missions as binding arbitration fails

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OTTAWA - Canada's striking foreign service officers have escalated their job action to 15 major embassies after an attempt to seek binding arbitration with the federal government broke down Friday.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers accused Treasury Board President Tony Clement of negotiating in bad faith for insisting on six preconditions before agreeing to binding arbitration.

The union said Friday it will withdraw services at the 15 largest visa processing centres in Canadian foreign missions, up from the three it had previously been targeting.

In addition to Beijing, Mexico City and New Delhi, the striking officers say they will also take aim at London, Paris, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, among others.

The union wants wage parity with counterparts in other federal departments who the union says make as much as $14,000 more for doing similar work.

But Clement, who blamed the union for scuttling the binding arbitration option, said it was making unreasonable comparisons between substantively different jobs in the public service.

Friday's developments escalated the war of words between the small but vocal union and the outspoken Clement and set the stage for a job action that could last into the fall.

The job action has reduced tourism and the number of foreign students coming to Canada to study in the fall because of backlogs in processing visa applications.

The union has said that visa processing dropped 65 per cent in June at the three major processing centres targeted so far by the strike.

Organizations: Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, Treasury Board

Geographic location: Canada, OTTAWA, Beijing Mexico City New Delhi London Paris Abu Dhabi Shanghai

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