FB bargaining: Strike Vote 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.

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. A strong strike mandate is the best way to reach a settlement quickly, and without necessarily having to take strike action. CBSA won’t budge unless we apply organized pressure. A strike mandate will give the FB bargaining team the leverage they need to reach a fair contract.

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 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:

Work-to-rule

A work-to-rule is when workers obey all the laws and rules applying to their work (i.e., through legislation or the collective agreement), but perform their work more slowly or follow “the letter of the law” to stall productivity.

You have the right to do this under labour legislation. In a 2009 decision, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) also indicated that Border Services Officers (BSOs) aren’t required to collect taxes and duties if taking work-to-rule action.

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.

Strategic strike

A strategic strike is a work stoppage by a limited number of members of a bargaining unit at a limited number of locations. The strategic strike includes up to 10 per cent of the members of a bargaining unit. Strategic strikes are designed to have the greatest impact on the employer’s operation. Strategic strikes are approved by the leadership of the union based on strategic plans of action. (Strategic 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 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

Yukon

$103.20

$516.00

Northwest Territories

$117.35

$586.75

Nunavut

$141.00

$705.00

Elsewhere in Canada

$75.00

$375.00

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

Yukon

$72.24

$361.20

Northwest Territories

$82.15

$410.75

Nunavut

$98.70

$493.50

Elsewhere in Canada

$53.00

$265.00

In the case of a ‘strategic strike’ — that is, a targeted strike involving no more than 10 per cent of the bargaining unit and lasting no longer than two weeks — strike pay will be 60 per cent of a member’s gross salary. 

Is strike pay taxable?

Strike pay is non-taxable.

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

Your 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, 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 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 participating in any strike. Occupying an essential position means you cannot stop work and engage in the 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. 
 
If PSAC receives a strike mandate, members will receive a letter in the mail containing details around any duties that are deemed essential.

The letter will specify whether you are code 1 (full-time essential), code 2 (alternate), or code 3 (conditional). Code 1s may not participate in strike action during working hours. Code 2s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in as an alternate to a code 1 employee. Code 3s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in due to an emergency.

We understand many members have questions about specific positions, and we suggest you wait for the letter at the end of the strike votes or contact your CIU branch president for more information.  

Essential employees: what duties are NOT considered essential?

A PSLRB decision from 2009 clarified which services performed by Border Services Officers (BSOs) are considered necessary for the safety of the public, and therefore essential. 

The following duties have been deemed non-essential by the FPSLREB. In the event of a strike, members who have been designated as essential may refuse these duties.

  1. Assessing and collecting duties, taxes, fees and fines.
  2. Completing briefing notes, technical reports, client files and statements not related to maintaining border integrity and security.
  3. Providing information, through sessions, technical workshops and outreach activities to travelers, importers and exporters to educate them concerning the legislation, regulations and procedures of the CBSA and other government departments/agencies to encourage voluntary compliance and to respond to enquiries, concerns and service complaints.

Please note that the example above applies only to BSOs. If ordered to carry out these duties by the employer, members should talk to their local shop steward and may choose to file a grievance. 

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. However, 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.

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.

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April 3, 2024