Border security workers to hold strike votes next week, jeopardizing border reopening

Some 9,000 Canadian Border Service officials are preparing for next week’s strike, even as talks begin to resume the Canada-US border.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said on Thursday that its 5,500 border guards, 2,000 employees at headquarters and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in the workplace would go on strike on Wednesday, which will then continue in all month.

Workers hired by CBSA and the Treasury have been without a contract for nearly three years and say negotiations between the two countries ended in December.

The union and employers failed to agree on better protection for staff, which the union said would bring them in line with other law enforcement officials in Canada and address the “toxic” culture in the workplace.

“CBSA staff have been at the forefront of the pandemic since day one; keeping our borders safe, checking passengers for COVID-19 and releasing vital shipments of vaccines, “said PSAC National President Chris Eylard in a statement.

“Our members have stood up for the Canadians, but now is the time for the government to stand up for them.”

The finance ministry’s office said in an email that it had the “greatest respect” for border guards and was disappointed that the union rejected a “fair” proposal that included salary adjustments.

“We remain committed to reaching agreements with all bargaining agents that are fair to employees, taking into account today’s economic and fiscal context and reasonable for Canadians,” the statement said.

“Out of respect for the collective bargaining process, we will not comment further on the negotiations.”

The PSAC strike came when New York Congressman Brian Higgins said Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden would discuss plans to open the Canadian-US border at this week’s G7 summit.

The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began and employees boarded to lock their countries and stop the virus from spreading through travel.

As vaccination efforts have increased significantly since then, politicians, including Higgins, have called for the border to be opened.

The last closing of the borders will remain in force until June 21.

As the deadline approaches, the PSAC and the alliance’s customs and immigration union are urging the government to resolve issues that could lead their members to strike.

The unions said they had met with Trudeau and Secretary of Public Safety Bill Blair, urging them to return to the table with a new mandate to avoid a labor dispute that could affect border passengers.

“We are ready and ready to return to the table to negotiate a fair deal that takes into account our commitment to Canadians,” CIU national president Jean-Pierre Fortin said in a statement.

“But we’re tired of the employer’s disrespect for our members.”

When asked about the matter, Blair’s office referred questions to the CBSA, which said it would respond quickly to any work to “maintain security at our border, ensure compliance with our laws and keep the border open to legitimate passengers.” and goods. “

“We expect our employees to continue to perform their duties with the highest level of integrity and professionalism,” the email said.

As the two sides try to resolve their problems, they are waiting to receive recommendations from a public interest committee, which they appeared before in May to present arguments about compensation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2021.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press