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Border unions threaten summer disruptions after members vote in favour of striking

Home News Border unions threaten summer disruptions after members vote in favour of striking

Border unions threaten summer disruptions after members vote in favour of striking

The federal government said it believes there’s still time to reach an agreement

The unions representing thousands of border workers are predicting disruptions at airports and land crossings this summer after most of their Canada Border Services Agency members voted in favour of strike action.

Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) voted 96 per cent in favour of striking in a recent vote, according to a statement issued Friday by both unions. CIU said about 70 per cent of its members voted.

The roughly 9,000 affected workers include those at airports, land entry points, marine ports and commercial ports of entry, inland enforcement officers, intelligence officers, investigators, trade officers and non-uniformed headquarters staff, said the unions.

CIU president Mark Weber said members are seeking wages more in line with law enforcement agencies like the RCMP, access to telework for members who can work from home, an end to what he calls “arbitrary” discipline and better retirement options.

“One of the other big sticking points as well is ’25 and out.’ Almost all other law enforcement, public safety personnel have the option of retiring after 25 years without penalty,” he said. “That’s something that we currently do not have.”

Weber said employees are concerned about the growing use of artificial intelligence and reliance on automated kiosks.

Members of the CIU union carry banners and cowbells while protesting slow progress in contract talks.
Members of the Customs and Immigration Union demonstrate outside the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Monday. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

“Our members find it worrisome from a national security point of view as well [that] the CBSA seems intent on almost setting up a self-serve kiosk kind of operation in many instances — almost waiting for smugglers to self declare that they’re smuggling, which of course is never going to work,” he said.

“We’ve seen CBSA promotional videos where it’s a car that drives up to a border, the traveller rolls down their window, waves their phone at a screen, and drives through.”

Strike action could start next month.

The unions and the federal government met with the Public Interest Commission last month, which is expected to release an independent report with recommendations at the end of the month. Mediation sessions resume June 3.

PSAC-CIU said they will be in a legal strike position after the release of the report.

“As summer travel season nears, we hope the Trudeau Liberal government is making these negotiations a top priority. The window to avert a strike is closing quickly,” said PSAC president Chris Aylward.

Government calls strike ‘unnecessary’

The government said it believes there’s still time to reach an agreement.

“We believe these opportunities can provide a clear path to an agreement without the undue hardship for employees and the public caused by a strike,” said the Treasury Board in a statement.

“We recognize that labour action is a legitimate part of collective bargaining. Employees have the right to strike, but at this time it is unnecessary.”

The government said that in the event of strike action, about 90 per cent of front-line border services employees would be deemed essential.

“Rather than planning for disruption, PSAC should focus on negotiation so we can reach an agreement as quickly as possible that is fair to employees and taxpayers,” said the statement.

Weber said the same number of employees were designated essential during work-to-rule action in 2021, which left travellers and vehicles idling for nine to 10 hours at some of the country’s busiest international gateways.

“So despite being essential, there could be significant disruptions at the border,” he said.

“No one wants to strike but unfortunately we’ve gotten absolutely nowhere with demands that we feel are just about being fair.”

Source: CBC

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