The Canada-bound plaza at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)The Canada-bound plaza at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

Border personnel back strike action, border disruptions possible in June

The union representing workers at Canada's borders warns there could be significant disruptions this summer after members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

For travellers, it could mean long lineups at border crossings and in Canadian airports in a matter of weeks.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has over 9,000 workers at the Canada Border Services Agency. It says members voted 96 per cent in favour of a possible strike to back contract demands.

"Taking job action is always a last resort, but this strong strike mandate underscores that our members are prepared to do what it takes to secure a fair contract," said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. "Unless they want a repeat of 2021, Treasury Board and CBSA must be prepared to come to the table with a fair offer that addresses our key issues."

The Treasury Board responded to the strike vote, saying Canadians should know that 90 per cent of front-line border services employees are designated essential, meaning they must continue to provide service, even during a strike.

The workers have been without a contract for more than two years, and those key issues include wage demands aligned with other law enforcement agencies across Canada, flexible telework and remote work options, equitable retirement benefits, and stronger protections for hours of work, changes in technology, and discipline.

In 2021, a job action by border guards nearly brought commercial cross-border traffic to a standstill. Only after a 36-hour marathon bargaining session did the standoff end with an agreement.

PSAC held the strike vote between April 10 and May 23.

"Our members response to this vote has been unprecedented," said CIU National President Mark Weber. "We extended the voting period to meet the overwhelming demand from workers. We're sending a clear message to the employer. We are prepared to fight for fair wages, equitable retirement, and to make CBSA a better place to work."

The workers are in a legal strike position once a Public Interest Commission hearing report is released. Mediation sessions to resolve the impasse start on June 3, and the report could come out before then.

A release from the Treasury Board called a strike "unnecessary." It said it is "ready and willing to return to the bargaining table at any time."

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