Canadian border officers to strike ahead of opening to vaccinated U.S. travelers – Detroit Free Press

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Icon Sep 16, 2021

Nearly 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency employees are going on strike beginning Friday –– just three days before the border is set to open to vaccinated U.S. travelers on Monday. Union members warn this could cause long delays at the border. 
Both the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union served a strike notice to the Canadian government on Tuesday, according to a news release. The strike is set to begin at 6 a.m. on Friday. 
“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract with the government,” said Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president, in the release. “Treasury Board and CBSA have been clear they aren’t prepared to address critical workplace issues at CBSA at the bargaining table.” 
Union members and border officers have been without a contract since June 2018, and they said this is the breaking point.  
“We’ve been on the front lines of Canada’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis and the government has just not given us respect at the bargaining table,” said Richard Savage, first national vice president for the Customs and Immigration Union. 
The Canada Border Services Agency said its officers have shown “tremendous resilience and dedication” during the pandemic and it expects officers to fulfill their duties with the “highest level of integrity and professionalism,” according to CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Callin. 
“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as a dynamic and responsive organization that delivers high quality border services, will respond quickly to any job action/work disruption in order to maintain the safety and security of our border, ensure compliance with our laws, and keep the border open to legitimate travellers and goods,” Callin said in a message to the Free Press.  
The unions have three main issues, Savage said: They’re seeking wage parity with other law enforcement agencies, better protection from “heavy-handed discipline” the border agency hands out, and language that would allow certain members to work from home. 
The job action will be, at least at first, a work-to-rule strike at all airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities, and headquarters.  
“There will be no picket lines, everybody will be in the workplace, and what that means is we’ll be doing our job to the letter of the law,” Savage said. “We, as border officers, administer over 97 different laws and acts of Canada. We routinely, maybe not ignore, but we push aside certain things that may not have the importance, you know, at the time, to allow for the borders to function smoothly. So, if we work to rule, it’s going to result in significant delays to both the traveling public as well as to the commercial stream.”  
He cited higher scrutiny at the border, such as checking more vehicles, asking extra questions, and more strictly enforcing duty and tax laws. 
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If the government doesn’t budge, Savage said they might move to a strategic strike at certain airports or land borders 
“We’re in this for the long haul, our members are tired and are sick of a lack of respect that the employer and the government is showing our members after we’ve worked diligently without a contract for the last three years,” Savage said. “The ball is in the government’s hands right now. We’re hoping that a deal can be reached, but if not, we’re prepared for the long term.” 
Contact Emma Stein: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_emmastein.

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