Canada’s striking Foreign Service workers are to shut down all its services at the country’s 15 largest visa processing centers abroad, following a failed attempt to go to arbitration to settle a wage dispute with the government.
According to the foreign workers’ union, the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), the workers are to withdraw all services from July 29 in 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," said the union.
The escalated action comes after an attempt by the union to seek binding arbitration with the administration of Prime Minister Stephen Harper failed on July 26.
Union President Tim Edwards accused the Treasury Board President Tony Clement of “negotiating in bad faith” for insisting on certain preconditions before agreeing to binding arbitration.
The union said in a statement that some of the preconditions were "so paralyzing that their acceptance would have predetermined the outcome of arbitration in the government's favor and negated the purpose and integrity of the process."
Among others, the Canadian government wanted to keep out any mention of other public servants who performed similar work.
However, the union said it could not accept that precondition since it “had been at the heart of our position since day one."
The ongoing strike was launched in April, in protest against unequal income compared to other Canadian federal government professionals performing the same job inside Canada.
According to the union, Foreign Service officers receive between 3,000 and 14,000 Canadian dollars less in annual income.
The strike has already negatively affected the tourism sectors and educational institutions and organizations, with students withdrawing from courses and visitors cancelling trips to Canada due to their visa applications not being processed in time.