Labor Rights Happy New Year

Published on January 9th, 2014 | by Editor

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New Year’s Update

Greetings Fellow FSNs,

To all corners of the world, Happy New Year to you and your families! 

As the year 2014 begins, we wanted to provide an update on significant developments over the past year in IFSA’s effort to launch a dialogue between LES and the Department of  State.  Our objective is to encourage an open and transparent discussion of LES issues and concerns, and to establish a solid framework for working together on possible solutions with a view to improving our working lives and strengthening our relationship with other members of the U.S. foreign affairs community.

As many of you know, the Board of IFSA reached out to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), a well-regarded labor union/professional association based in Washington D.C., to see if they could assist us in getting recognition by the State Department so we could engage in such a dialogue.

We are delighted that in recent months Senior State Department officials have had meetings with IFPTE, who, at the request of IFSA, presented Locally Employed Staff concerns. These were the first substantive discussions with State Department officials on the specific issues of greatest concern to LE Staff worldwide and the need for formal representation of LE staff in Washington. 

One of the main reasons we approached IFPTE is their focus on the value of the work of public servants.  IFPTE’s members are professional white collar workers, including many U.S. government workers at the federal, state and city level, and the organization is structured to ensure that local affiliates have autonomy over their own affairs, budgets, and leadership.   We were also impressed with their track record in gaining union representation for the locally employed staff of the U.K. Mission in the United States, a case they brought before the International Labor Organization.  We are hopeful that partnership with IFPTE – a long established and very well regarded labor organization which operates under U.S. law – will help ease any concerns State might have in recognizing IFSA. 

In turn, IFPTE was interested in assisting us after learning of our status, highlighted by our personal stories in the Foreign Service Journal and State’s OIG report ISO-07-06 from May 2007.  They were astonished to learn that the State Department, known for its passionate defense of labor rights worldwide, excludes its largest group of employees from such rights through out-of-date anti-union policies in its own Foreign Affairs Manual. 

We are pleased that IFPTE has taken a proactive principled approach to seeking representation for locally employed staff, including contacting members of Congress about the issue, and issuing a press release on labor rights for LES which featured prominently on their website.  Over the course of the past months IFPTE has met top level officials including David Wade, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Kerry, and Special Representative for Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor, to make the case for labor representation of LES.

Our goal moving forward is to establish formal recognition by the State Department of LE representatives in Washington. These representatives will promote and advocate on behalf of LE staff worldwide. The most effective means to accomplish this is through official affiliation with IFPTE, who will continue to assist us as we grow and build a collaborative relationship with State, as well as develop networks and relations with other labor organizations. 

As we begin the new year, we feel strengthened by the support received from the LE/FSN community as well as from Civil and Foreign Service colleagues.  They too believe that giving LE staff a voice in matters that affect them and their careers is not only a fundamental right, but also one that would benefit the entire foreign affairs community. 

Overall, we are optimistic, but only through your support can we hope to achieve any success. Please spread the word to your colleagues.  If you would like to stay informed with these developments, please dosign up for our newsletter (see “subscribe to our newsletter” box on the IFSA web site).

Happy New Year!

Eddy Olislaeger

Chair
IFSA

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