More than 8,500 unionized staff with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have given their union an overwhelming strike mandate, throwing into question the federal government’s plans for a smooth reopening of the Canada-U.S. border this summer as a federal election looms. CBSA employees could potentially begin strike action as soon as August 6, 2021.
The employees — members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) — have been without a contract for over three years. They are seeking better protections against a toxic workplace culture at CBSA, and greater parity with other law enforcement agencies across Canada. The union declared impasse and applied for a Public Interest Commission ruling after CBSA and Treasury Board were unwilling to address these concerns.
“Our members at CBSA have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, and many have contracted COVID-19 while working,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “They’ve kept our borders safe, screened travelers entering Canada, and ensured the rapid clearance of vaccine shipments. Now it’s time for the government to step up for them the way they’ve stepped up for Canadians.”
Risk of significant economic disruption
A labour dispute while borders begin to reopen could cause a significant disruption to the flow of goods, services and people entering Canada, and impact the Canadian economy by:
- Slowing down commercial traffic at the border and ports of entry;
- Impacting international mail and parcel deliveries from Canada Post and other major shipping companies;
- Impact the collection of duties and taxes on goods entering Canada.
“Taking strike action is always a last resort, but we’re grappling with systemic workplace harassment issues that must be addressed,” said Mark Weber, CIU national president. “The toxic workplace culture at CBSA is taking a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of our members.”
The federal government recently reached a tentative agreement with RCMP members that closed wage gaps and provided more supports for its members, showing a clear willingness to negotiate from the government. CBSA employees deserve the same level of respect at the bargaining table.
“We’ve told the government numerous times that we’re ready to return to the table to negotiate a fair contract that addresses our members’ concerns,” added Aylward. “But their window to avert a strike is quickly closing.”
PSAC-CIU members at CBSA include border service officers at airports, land entry points, marine ports, and commercial ports of entry, inland enforcement officers, intelligence officers, investigators, trade officers, hearings officers and non-uniformed members. The strike vote was held between June 16 and July 23.