FB bargaining: Strike FAQ

The Border Services (FB) bargaining unit consists of over 9,000 PSAC-CIU members working at Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), who are responsible for protecting Canada’s borders and the planning, development, delivery, inspection and control of people and goods entering Canada.

The collective agreement expired in June 2022 and FB members have been without a contract for nearly two years.

The FB bargaining team is committed to reaching a fair contract that protects our hard-fought gains and provides new rights and protections for PSAC-CIU members. 

Key issues at the bargaining table include:

  • Wage parity: FB members deserve fair wages that are aligned with other law enforcement agencies across the country – for both uniformed and non-uniformed members alike.
  • Stronger job security: CBSA’s approach to discipline is heavy-handed and leads to a toxic workplace culture. We need better protections for workers from management harassment and abuse of authority.
  • Access to telework: FB non-uniformed members deserve consistent and flexible access to telework options.
  • Protections from contracting out: The use of automated systems, untrained student workers and contracting out means higher costs, more risk, and reduced quality of services for Canadians.  We need to end contracting out and fight for good, secure public service jobs.

We've also made it clear that if this government is serious about achieving a new collective agreement, Treasury Board President Anita Anand must honour the commitment made during the last round of bargaining and make equitable 25-and-out retirement a reality for FB members. Law enforcement personnel at CBSA deserve the same treatment and retirement benefits as their counterparts in other law enforcement agencies.

Following the release of our strike mandate, many of you are asking what happens now. Your bargaining team will be in mediation starting June 3rd.

To provide members with as much information as possible, we have compiled key questions and answers. This page will be updated periodically, check back for more information.

When would we go on strike? 

 A successful strike vote does not necessarily mean we will go on strike. We are hopeful that the employer will understand the impact a strike will have on the public and the economy and come to the table with a fair offer during mediation. We are in a legal strike position on June 6th.

Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date to receive all the latest updates about bargaining. If you have any questions, please contact your Customs and Immigration Union branch president or visit the CIU and PSAC websites.

What will I be expected to do in the event of a strike?

We understand many members have questions about specific our strike strategy. To ensure our strike action has as much impact as possible, this information will follow closer to a potential strike date.

What is “strike action” and how long would a strike last? 

If members vote for a strike and PSAC is still unable to reach an agreement with the employer at the bargaining table, PSAC’s national president can authorize a strike. Any strike activity would be well planned by PSAC and CIU, considering how to apply maximum pressure on the employer.
There are many kinds of strikes:

General strike

A PSAC general strike is a cessation of work by all PSAC members in a bargaining unit. Members in the Treasury Board PA, TC, SV and EB units undertook a general strike in 2023 and held the line during one of the largest national strikes in Canada’s history, winning wage increases preventing workers from falling further behind, new and improved remote work language, better job security, and safer and more inclusive workplaces.

Rotating strike

A rotating strike is a series of surprise, up to day-long work stoppages of all bargaining unit members at various strategic geographic locations. (e.g., Ontario members on Monday, Quebec members on Tuesday, etc.) General strike pay provisions apply.

PSAC and CIU leadership will develop a plan and determine when, where and for how long strike actions will happen. For more information on the PSAC strike structures, please see the PSAC Strike Manual.

Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date to receive all the latest updates about bargaining. If you have any questions, please contact your Customs and Immigration Union branch president or visit the CIU and PSAC websites.

Will the employer stop my pay during a strike? 

According to current Treasury Board policy, pay should not be interrupted for striking employees. Instead, they would recover the pay from employees after the strike. The employer, however, could change this policy at any time.

Will I be affected by Phoenix if we go on strike?

According to current Treasury Board policy, pay should not be interrupted for striking employees. Instead, they would recover the pay from employees after the strike. The employer, however, could change this policy at any time.
PSAC would address how this is done in the ‘return to work’ protocol that is always negotiated as part of the settlement when it is achieved.

Based on past precedents and expert advice, we don't anticipate Phoenix complications. Members will likely continue to receive pay from the employer while on strike and have pay deducted only after the strike concludes and leave without pay requests are submitted and processed.

Will I receive strike pay? 

Strike pay is applicable if we withdraw our services by going on strike. 

Strike pay is governed by Regulation 6 in the PSAC Constitution. Members are expected to provide a minimum of four hours of work per day in support of the strike to qualify for strike pay. 
Members who usually work 20 hours or more each week will receive the strike pay below:

Members who work in

Per day

For a maximum per calendar week of




Northwest Territories






Elsewhere in Canada



PSAC members who usually work less than 20 hours per week will receive the strike pay below:.

Members who work in

Per day

For a maximum per calendar week of




Northwest Territories






Elsewhere in Canada



The Customs and Immigration Union National Board of Directors has voted to provide an additional $50 top up of strike pay per day for non-essential members who picket for a minimum of 4 hours or perform other strike duties as assigned. Please note that members with essential services letters who picket on a day of rest are not eligible for the $50 component top up, although they remain eligible for regular strike pay on a day of rest.

Please refer to the following breakdown for more information:

  • Non-essential members who picket/perform strike activities: $100 strike pay + $50 component top up
  • Essential members who participate on Friday June 14 after 4 p.m. outside working hours: $100 strike pay
  • Essential members who participate on a scheduled work day, before/after shift other than Friday June 7: Not eligible for strike pay or top-up.
  • Essential members who participate on a on day of rest: $100 strike pay

Branches may also provide a strike pay top-up, please contact your Branch President for more information.

Is strike pay taxable?

Strike pay is non-taxable.

What if I can’t afford to go on strike?

Taking strike action is a last resort but it is sometimes necessary. It is important that every member participate – this gives the bargaining team maximum leverage at the table, which will help win a fair collective agreement quickly.

If you are struggling financially, the union has a lot of support systems in place to make sure you never go without pay while on strike. 

Members can apply for PSAC’s Hardship Fund if you run into a difficult financial situation during a strike or lockout. The fund offers emergency financial assistance to workers in financial distress. 
Lastly, because of the strong impact any strike action by our members would have on CBSA, we believe that if we act collectively a strike is unlikely to last long.

Will I have access to dental and other group benefit plans when on strike? 

Yes. Based on current employer policy, employees on strike will continue to receive coverage under the Public Service Group Benefit Plans. However, the employer is entitled to change this approach.

Do those in acting positions outside the bargaining unit return to their substantive position during a strike? 

No. You will continue in your acting position during the strike unless the employer decides otherwise. Furthermore, you are part of the bargaining unit in which you are acting, not the bargaining unit of your substantive position. Therefore, if you are currently acting outside of the FB group, you would not be eligible to participate in the strike vote or to take strike action.

Can my already approved leave be cancelled once strike action is called?

The employer's own policy states that “generally, employees in the striking bargaining unit who are on leave when the strike begins may be allowed to continue on leave. Employees who are striking and who have been scheduled to go on leave during the strike will not be permitted to do so.” 
With that being said, the employer may still choose to cancel your leave, even if it has already commenced, because no collective agreement is in force during a strike.  

What about sick leave and "other leave with or without pay"?

Since there is no collective agreement in force during a strike, the employer does not have a legal obligation to approve any type of leave.  
However, the employer’s manual stipulates that members of any bargaining unit on strike who are on disability insurance, or any other paid or non-paid leave, before the beginning of a strike, should be authorized to take their leave, as long as they continue to provide justification for their leave. 

If I am presently on maternity and/or parental leave, am I still entitled to this leave?  What happens to my top-up?

Your entitlement to maternity or parental leave is established by legislation and therefore continues during the period of a strike. 
Your entitlement to the salary top-up is established under the collective agreement and no collective agreement is active during a strike. The employer could, therefore, choose not to pay the top-up. However, the employer’s own policy states that employees on “other leave with or without pay” prior to the start of the strike should be permitted to continue on leave. The union also pursues these top-ups as a standard demand in return-to-work protocols.

How will a strike affect my pension?

Periods while a member participates in a strike do not count as pensionable service. Also, the periods participating in a work stoppage strike cannot be “bought back.” However, these periods are not considered as “breaks” in pensionable service for purposes of calculating a member’s “highest five consecutive years of highest paid service.” 
The impact on the future pension for a member who participates in a strike is to push back — by the number of days on strike — the date on which he or she completes the required years of service to qualify for a pension. Your strike days will be reported to the pension administration by your compensation office. 
There will be no impact on the average salary on which the pension will be calculated for members whose days on strike do not fall within their five consecutive years of highest salary. 
Average salary for pension benefit purposes is always based on the member’s best five consecutive years of highest paid salary. Any salary lost due to a strike during the final average salary period is accounted for by extending back in time the average salary period so that five years of paid earnings are used in the calculation. For example, if a member had been on strike for 10 days during the relevant period, the average salary would be based on earnings paid during the best consecutive five years and 10 days of employment. It should be noted that average salary is based on five consecutive years of pensionable service, rather than on five continuous years of service. 
When contemplating retirement, members should be encouraged to obtain a copy of their exact record of pensionable service before deciding on their retirement date, to ensure that they have the required service for the pension option on which they are counting. 

What if I am a casual employee or summer student?

Casual employees and students are not considered employees under the FPSLREA and are not union members and cannot strike.

Can term employees strike? 

If an employee’s term is for a period greater than three months, or they have been working on consecutive term appointments for longer than three months, then the answer is yes. Not only can they strike, but they should do so if a strike is declared. 
Term employees for three months or more are employees in the bargaining unit and ARE covered by the collective agreement. 

Essential employees: what does it mean to be an essential employee? 

An essential employee is one who occupies a position that has been designated as providing an “essential service.” 
Employees identified as occupying essential positions are prohibited from striking during scheduled working hours. Occupying an essential position means you cannot stop work and strike, but you remain able to support your co-workers before and after work, and during lunch breaks, by joining them on the picket line. 
By now members occupying essential positions should have received a letter from CBSA indicating an essential status.

The letter will specify whether you are Code 1 (full-time essential), Code 2 (alternate to a specific Code 1 person), or Code 3 (conditional).

Code 1’s may not participate in strike action during working hours.

Code 2’s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in as an alternate to a specific code 1 employee.

Code 3s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in due to an emergency.

Essential employees: what should I do when faced with a picket line?

Employees occupying essential positions will be provided with an electronic letter by the employer notifying them of their essential status. Each branch/local will be provided with lists, so strike captains will know who needs to report to work. Essential employees can also show the letter to the picket captain (via tablet, smartphone, or printed copy). Those who are prohibited from bringing phones into the workplace should keep a printed copy of their official letter handy.
The picket line cannot impede essential workers from attending work. If you are an essential employee and encounter a picket line, ask your manager to escort you to work.

Despite statements to the contrary from CBSA, you are permitted and encouraged to join the picket line up until it is time to go into work, that includes before and after work and during lunch breaks.
As an essential employee you are entitled to work under the frozen terms and conditions of employment in place when the notice to bargain was served.

Essential employees: what should I NOT do when there is a strike of my bargaining unit?

Since you are occupying an essential position, you cannot legally withdraw your services from work. But you should not perform any of the work ordinarily performed by the people who are on the picket line.

Ask for the order in writing and send it to your branch president or PSAC regional rep.

What do I do if my supervisor orders me to perform non-essential duties or to handle striking workers’ duties during a strike?

Ask for the order in writing and send it to your branch president or PSAC regional rep.

How can essential service employees support a strike?

As an essential service employee you are unable to participate in a strike during your working hours. Our bargaining unit is made up of a majority of essential workers. Members deemed essential will be expected to picket outside their work hours. A strike will not be successful without you.

 How can I get involved and support our bargaining teams?

Everything you do in the workplace – no matter how big or small – to show the employer you support our bargaining team makes a difference as we push for a fair contract. Every action is reported up the chain and pushes CBSA to come to the table with a fair offer.

There are many ways to support the bargaining team – members can wear and display support materials, take part in rallies and actions, and more. Contact your CIU Branch President or Regional Office to find out what is happening in your area.

What should I do if asked to work overtime?

Anyone who has worked for CBSA will know how entrenched overtime is within the Agency. For the employer, it is the preferred tool for managing chronic staffing shortages. For many of our members, it provides an important percentage of their total annual compensation. Under normal circumstances, our members want to work overtime and the employer is happy to oblige — indeed, most grievances filed regarding overtime are about not getting enough of it.

But these are not normal times.

Within a few short days, as early as Thursday June 6, the FB bargaining unit will be in a legal strike position. Most of our FB members, however, are designated essential and will be on the job. While that means they will have a legal obligation to fulfill the duties of their position, this comes with absolutely no obligation to volunteer for overtime.

In fact, starting today and until a tentative agreement has been secured, we are asking all of our FB members to think carefully before volunteering to work extra hours. It’s one thing to be ordered to work overtime by management, who certainly has the right to issue such an order. It’s quite another thing altogether to volunteer to work overtime for an employer who systematically seeks to undermine our collective rights by pushing for concessions at the table, round after round.

Every member of the FB bargaining team will tell you that the employer has yet to agree to any of our key demands, and has certainly not volunteered to do so. Not on retirement, not on wages, not on telework, not on job security, and certainly not on detoxifying the workplace. Why then volunteer to help management deal with scheduling gaps, when CBSA won’t voluntarily address a single gap in our collective agreement?

Strikes are a last resort that succeed through solidarity and sacrifice. To get a fair deal, we all need to be in this together.

Should I join the picket line or strike activities after my shift on a day that I'm working as a designated essential worker? Should essential and non-essential members join the picket line or strike activities on my days of rest / days off?

Yes. It is important that every member participate. Members who are designated as essential are encouraged to voluntarily participate when not on shift and/or on their days of rest. 

This gives the bargaining team maximum leverage at the table and helps maintain the momentum of a strike, which will help win a new collective agreement – which all FB members stand to gain from - quickly. There are over 9,000 members in the FB group: collectively we have a huge amount of power.

When we work together, we win together.

All members participating in picketing activities will receive PSAC strike pay. For more information, see the Strike Pay section of the FAQ.

Next steps

If you have any other questions, please contact your branch president, your PSAC regional office, or refer to the PSAC Strike Manual. You can also participate in a strike and essential services training session, which will expand on many of these themes in more detail. Training sessions are being scheduled. Stay tuned for more information. 
We make tremendous gains when we exercise our right to strike. It’s one of our most effective tools to ensure the employer understands we deserve respect and listens to our demands. Keep these things in mind when you speak with your family, people in your community, and other union members. We are stronger together.



June 10, 2024