HOLDING PATTERN

Canada Border Services Agency Workers Set New Strike Date

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Land and air travellers returning to Canada have a new strike deadline to worry about.

More than 9,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union say they’ll begin job action across the country on 14JUN at 12:01 a.m. ET if an agreement is not reached at the table with the Canada Border Services Agency and the Treasury Board.

Job action was postponed Friday, 07JUN after mediation talks were extended to reach an agreement.

Experts say a PSAC job action could mean severe slowdowns at Canadian airports and border crossings.

“We are still hopeful we can avoid a strike and potential disruptions at Canada’s borders,” said Sharon DeSousa, PSAC National President. “No worker wants a strike, but we’ve set a firm deadline for this government to come to the table with a fair agreement.”

Roughly 90% of border service workers are deemed to be essential employees and aren’t allowed to walk off the job. But they can take part in job actions such as picketing in their non-work hours, and the union says things could get messy.

The CBC notes that potential job action could include “work to rule,” when employees could conceivably apply each and every one of their job’s rules and regulations.

"You can create tremendous lineups of those trucks and tremendous lineups of people,” said Ian Lee, an associate professor in the Sprott School of Business at Ottawa's Carleton University. “It'll be very, very disruptive if they do work-to-rule because so many people cross that border every day.”

The CBC also reports that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said that, under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, employees who are deemed essential must provide uninterrupted service and "cannot intentionally slow down border processing."

Claire Fan, an economist with the Royal Bank of Canada, said in an interview with CTV's News Channel on 06JUN that she expects the potential strike to have a spillover impact. Fan said auto manufacturers could see the biggest economic hit. Tourism and restaurants could also be hurt if travellers call off their trips as the travel season starts to ramp up.

“The clock is ticking for this matter to be resolved before our border crossings are severely disrupted and the billions of dollars of trade that flows through those border points are interrupted,” the Canadian Trucking Alliance recently stated on its website. “Delayed border crossings will reduce production in key employment industries, like the auto sector and others that rely on just-in-time goods deliveries, threatening the livelihood of thousands of Canadians.”

“PSAC members in the FB bargaining group have been without a contract for over two years,” PSAC said on its website. “Key issues in this round of bargaining include fair wages that are aligned with other law enforcement agencies across the country, flexible telework and remote work options, equitable retirement benefits for CBSA law enforcement personnel and stronger workplace protections.

“Job action by CBSA personnel in 2021 nearly brought commercial cross-border traffic to a standstill, causing major delays at airports and borders across the country and a marathon 36-hour bargaining session to reach an agreement,” PSAC said.

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