06/06/2013 04:13 EDT | Updated 08/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Foreign service officers begin walkouts across the globe

About 400 employees the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa walked off the job at 2 p.m. Thursday, as part of a global protest of Canadian foreign service workers over stalled contract talks.

The exodus today from the Pearson Building, headquarters for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, was the first of several rotating walkouts involving personnel at 13 missions abroad. Workers left the offices at 125 Sussex Drive and went home.

The 1,350-member Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers has been without a contract since mid-2011. The union has been in a legal strike position since April.

The union wants the Treasury Board to go back to the bargaining table to address a core grievance: that its members are paid $10,000 to $14,000 a year less than their counterparts who do similar work in other federal departments.

While essential workers will remain on the job, the walkouts could effect processing of immigration applications, trade talks and other consular affairs work.