Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Clement Digs in Heels with Striking Diplomats, Says He's Not Going to 'Fold'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Clement Digs in Heels with Striking Diplomats, Says He's Not Going to 'Fold'

Article excerpt

Clement, diplomats dig in heels on strike

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OTTAWA - Striking diplomats should get back to work, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Tuesday, because he's not about to fold "like a $3 suitcase" in the ongoing stalemate between the two sides.

But the head of the striking Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers said the union is prepared to extend the strike into the fall if necessary.

Clement and Tim Edwards, the union president, both dug in their heels in separate interviews Tuesday after engaging in a heated exchange on Twitter.

The tough talk on both sides does not bode well for the resolution of an unprecedented job action that has reportedly stalled visa processing in Canadian foreign embassies.

That has tourism groups estimating that the strike could cost the industry $280 million this summer, while some foreign students have been forced to withdraw from Canadian university courses because they can't get visas in time.

"I would certainly hope that the union would recommend to its membership that this is an offer worth taking, that it's not going to get any better than this," Clement said in his interview.

"It's better to resolve this and everybody get back to work."

Edwards said that's not likely to happen any time soon under the current circumstances.

"The offer that is on the table, regardless of whether you think it's fair or reasonable, is the same one that's been on the table since we began negotiations 21 months ago, without a single change."

Edwards said the strike is starting to undermine the Canadian economy in tourism, education and agriculture among other sectors, and that his striking membership takes no joy in the dispute.

"We already made preparations to take this through the summer and into the fall."

The union continues to target cabinet level travel abroad, international priorities and visa processing, he added.

Edwards said he was happy to have engaged Clement over Twitter because it shows the minister is paying attention to their situation.

But Clement, who has used Twitter to blast opponents in the past, made clear that he is not going to cede social media space to the union.

"They're trying to pressure me, by social media, to take a position that is contrary to the interests of taxpayers. …

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